AYV News May 23, 2023
The West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) has commended Sierra Leone’s “comprehensive electoral reforms implemented”, including the passage of the Political Parties Regulations Commission Act and the Public Elections Act of 2022, which according to them have played a vital role in strengthening the country’s democratic process.
The Network recognised the country’s democratic achievements in the past 21 years since the end of the civil war in 2002, acknowledged the “commendable efforts” of various organisations at the national, regional and international levels in promoting peace and national cohesion in Sierra Leone, and encouraged them to continue their initiatives during and after the elections.
Furthermore, WADEMOS recognised the progress made in enhancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through the implementation of the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Act of 2021, which mandates a minimum of one-third female candidates nominated by political parties to increase women’s participation in politics.
Acting Network Coordinator of the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network, Kojo Asante highlighted the Network’s appreciation for the comprehensive measures undertaken to ensure a secure electoral process.
During its stay in Sierra Leone, the Network according to Asante, conducted meetings with stakeholders, aimed to support democratic processes and enhance the credibility of the upcoming presidential, parliamentary, mayoral, and local council elections.
“The WADEMOS engaged with various stakeholders throughout the mission, including the Human Rights Commission, the Office of National Security (ONS), the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), the Political Parties Regulations Commission (PPRC), political parties, the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (EC-SL), and the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC).
“These engagements provided valuable insights into the socio-political and electoral landscape, as well as the level of preparedness for the upcoming elections.” Kojo Asante stated.
The Network, Mr. Asante said, identified several challenges and concerns that need to be addressed to ensure a smooth electoral process.
He said these challenges include a high level of political mistrust among key actors, the growing use of hate speech in political discourse, particularly on social media platforms, difficulties in compiling the voter register, concerns regarding results management, communication gaps between the EC-SL and political parties, compliance with the GEWE Act, security arrangements impacting voter participation, and the need for enhanced voter education on the proportional representation (PR) system and other electoral processes.
WADEMOS also expressed concern about the timing of the elections coinciding with the rainy season. This they said could pose logistical challenges and potentially impact voter turnout, particularly for individuals with disabilities and the elderly.
In response to the challenges, WADEMOS advised that stakeholders in Sierra Leone come together and address these concerns to ensure the success of the upcoming elections.
The Network said: “Political actors should prioritise building trust and fostering a constructive political environment that encourages healthy dialogue and discourages hate speech.
“Efforts should be made to streamline the process of compiling the voter register, ensuring its accuracy and inclusivity. Transparent and efficient results management systems need to be implemented to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
“Close coordination between the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (EC-SL) and political parties is essential to address any communication gaps and ensure a smooth flow of information.
“Moreover, compliance with the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Act should be emphasized to increase the participation of women in politics. This can be achieved by supporting female candidates and promoting their visibility and leadership within political parties.
“Security arrangements must be meticulously planned and implemented to create a safe and secure environment for voters on election day. Adequate training and resources should be provided to security personnel to ensure they are well-prepared to handle any challenges that may arise.
“Additionally, voter education programs should be enhanced to familiarize citizens with the proportional representation (PR) system and other electoral processes. This will empower voters to make informed choices and actively participate in shaping the country’s future”.