NEC pushes for strong Electoral Campaign Code
Sierra Leone-Freetown: The Election Observation Mission in 2018 observed that political parties were in breach of both the Code of Conduct signed by registered political parties and the Electoral Commission’s Code of Conduct for Elections.
During a panel discussion at the National Electoral Legal Reform Conference organised by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) last week, the Director of External Relations, Albert Massaquoi who represented the Commission on the panel stressed the need for a strong Campaign Code during elections.
With the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) moving forward for a strong code that is embedded, he thinks it should also reflect in the Electoral Code, because political parties will sign and give symbol and the candidates will also sign the nomination form.
But he questioned as to what happens when they go into campaigns, who is to be held responsible if that code is breached? Massaquoi said that they have two Codes of Conduct, a general one for political parties and another that is limited to Electoral Campaigns and they want these documents reviewed.
Referencing the Public Elections Act, section 61 and 62, these sections deal with ‘Political party list of endorsed candidates for parliamentary’ and ‘Statutory declaration in support of political party list of endorsed candidates elections’. As a result, the Political Parties endorsed their candidates before they go through the nomination process in which they sign a Campaign Code. “The issue of who is responsible, their lies the problem whether it is the candidate, political parties or their supporters but it is very much key” Massaquoi said.
The reform he said should be able to pinpoint responsibility, and that, the Commission has always maintained that someone has to bear responsibility, whether it is the supporter or the candidate.
“Our Chair has always insisted that responsibility must be apportioned to individuals. Unfortunately, when things happen it is only the Police that will handle the matter, there is no disqualification from the Commission and most times people shift the blame. If you do something and you are disqualified you will not do it again, when the Police holds somebody as an individual the political party would say they have held our supporters not knowing that that individual did something on their own volition” he said.
The PPRC representative on the panel, said that subsequent elections and electoral cycles have actually proven that their Act is currently in such a state that it does not effectively supervise and monitor the activities of political parties, so that is why they are discussing ongoing reforms for both institutions.
In their response, even though all the political parties accepted the EOM recommendation, Sidi Yayah Tunis from the APC said that the political parties must fully adhere to the code and that PPRC and NEC must be empowered to enforce compliance.
Dennis Bright of the NGC agreed that they have all signed to the Code, but what is interesting is that they are discussing it every time when they have meetings knowing fully well that everybody knows who is violating the Code of Conduct.
When asked to be specific, he replied, “especially the people who were in power at the time, during the Tonko-limba and Kambia bye-elections, we saw vehicles in which they cover the number plates, when you talk to them, they say they have the power to do it, and no one has the power to stop them. We need to look at the implementation and application of the Code of Conduct” he said.
SLPP Secretary General, Umaru Napoleon Koroma urged his fellow political party associates to make themselves available for regulations so that they will be regulated by the institutions that were created to regulate them. “We have to have respect for these institutions.” ZIJ/17/8/2021
By [email protected]