The National Election Watch (NEW) has expressed concerns over electorate apathy in the just concluded voters’ register exhibition, which it attributed to uncoordinated and inconsistent voters’ education exercise.
In a strategic meeting in Freetown, where checklists from observers of the exhibition process was collated and outcome discussed, NEW observes that NEC’s information on the exhibition process has been grossly inadequate, not widespread in the districts and at times ambiguous as such some people were mistaking the voters’ register exhibition for the Government’s tetanus inoculation programme.
Consequently, electorate turn out has been very low, with unenthusiastic political party agents rarely available and nominal presence of few observers found in the process. The location of the exhibition sites were in some places inappropriate, with apparent minimal resources to support the process.
It was observed that the centres opened late and closed early and only one NEC personnel manned each centre.
NEW has attributed this apathy in the process to the very low priority assigned to the exercise by NEC officials, political parties and other stakeholders and the claim that people will be able to vote with their voter ID cards whether they are verified or not. However, NEW believes that with the recent changes in the election process – change of election date and locations of polling stations, this exercise provided an opportunity to strengthen the electoral education process.
NEW urges the National Electoral Commission and stakeholders to show more interest in the election education process thereby ensuring that adequate information is disseminated to the general public.
Voter Education Officers at district level should be resourced to coordinate district efforts, the organization notes and further suggests the establishment of a NEC/stakeholder’s forum to develop a national voters’ education strategy to enhance this process by giving support to civil society organizations to broaden the scope and increase the momentum.
The National Election Watch (NEW), a domestic coalition of civic and professional groups as well as international and local NGOs, is focusing on civil society oversight of the national electoral process.
NEW has been observing the national electoral process implemented by NEC, holding six national meetings and issuing press statements and reports to validate NEC’s processes to ensure the process is a free one.