The National Election Watch (NEW) has launched a report on the observation of the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections and has made recommendations to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and political parties for future elections.
Giving an overview of the election observation process yesterday at the Talking Drum Studio, Bathurst Street in Freetown, chairperson of NEW Frances Fortune said it was the first time that National Election Watch had managed and administered its own process for election observation.
Giving recommendations to NEC, political parties, civil society and the international community based on their observations, Frances Fortune said NEC should consider holding elections in the dry season when preparing the electoral calendar for future elections.
She said Election Day activities were not significantly affected by the weather, but the rainy season presented logistical problems for the operations of NEC, political parties and observer groups in the days leading up to the election.
Ms. Fortune also highlighted that NEW recommended that voters’ education efforts should be strengthened with NEC and the political parties having the obligation to better inform voters about all aspects of the electoral process.
“Uncoordinated and inconsistent voters’ education resulted in low levels of participation in the exhibition and challenges process as well as an unacceptable number of void votes,” she noted.
Frances Fortune further said NEW recommended that the structure that was established at national level for voters’ education should be replicated at district level to ensure maximum participation with district stakeholders and to strengthen voters’ education involving civil society groups.
According to her also, NEW observed that the Electoral Act should be revisited to include provisions that would address over-voting and to provide clear guidelines as to the consequences to those implementing the law.
To the political parties, she called on them to act responsibly when disseminating information to voters about electoral process and to participate more effectively in the voters’ education campaigns. She further encouraged that candidates lend their active support to peaceful elections in the future.
Launching the report, Ambrose James said NEW was trying to present transparency and accountability by stimulating participation of civil society groups and to develop a sense of responsibility among civil society groups to be part of national issues and concerns.
He said the supporting and coordinating roles as well as facilitating role of NEW were not easy to accomplish in the report as lots of capacity issues were dealt with.
NEW has observed elections since 2002 and in the 2007 elections, it fielded over 6,100 observers around the country and during the presidential run-off 5,278 were deployed covering about 80% of polling stations across the country.