Citizens Advocacy Network blasts NEC for cancelling Constituency 110 Bye-elections result

Democracy | Rule of Law
Citizens Advocacy Network
23278246328 | 23231246328
_23 Percival Street_
_Freetown | Sierra Leone

26th August, 2019



Democracy thrives in a climate of equity, transparency and respect for laid down laws, processes and procedures. The conduct of elections in Sierra Leone is governed principally by the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, the Elections Act 2012 and other related legislations!

The Public Elections Act 2012 ensures that electioneering processes are predictable and that elections officers are rational, reasonable and are guided in dispensing their duties within the limit of the law.

On this sacred principle, the Citizens Advocacy Network (hereinafter referred to as *CAN* ) is deeply concerned over the decision of The National Electoral Commission (NEC) and its National Returning Officer to cancel an entire election on the basis of allegations of violence in just a polling centre.

CAN respectfully notes that NEC and its National Returning Officer are not empowered by law to cancel an entire electioneering process on such a ground. CAN further notes that NEC in its press release dated 25the August, 2019, cited sections 33 and 39(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No.6 1991 and sections 69(1) and 70(1) of the Public Elections Act 2012. CAN wishes to state that the referred sections do not in any way support the decision of NEC.

Section 87 of the Public Elections Act 2012 states that only in an instance of over voting that a polling station can be nullified and *”NOT”* an entire election exercise! The provision states thus: *”where the votes cast at an election at a polling station exceeds the number of registered voters of that polling station, the result of the election for that polling station shall be declared null and void and another election maybe conducted at a date to be fixed by the Commission.”*

From the express statutory provision, it is clear that the National Returning Officer can only nullify a polling station if found wanting on basis of over voting. This does not extend to all other well-run polling stations.

The decision by NEC to cancel over 134 polling centers on allegations of an isolated incident of violence in just one polling center is illegal, absurd, unconscionable and undermines our nascent democracy.

In fact, section 147 of the Public Elections Act 2012 provides that the only competent authority that can nullify an election on grounds of violence is the High Court of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Hence, NEC’s decision is at best a blatant and an ill-advised usurpation of the powers of the High Court.

CAN wishes to remind the NEC and its National Returning Officer that all the provisions cited in above-mentioned press release for nullifying the entire electioneering exercise *have no spine* to stand the test of time.

Such unconstitutional and unlawful declaration has the proclivity to plunge the nation into unrest and further waste taxpayers money amidst the protracted economic hardship that has greeted the masses.

CAN therefore calls for an immediate retraction of the pronouncement of cancellation of the rerun bye-election at Constituency 110. As a guardian of the country’s democracy , CAN will not sit by and observe such wanton transgression of the rule of law.

CAN shall take steps within the ambit of the law, if need be, to defend our democracy and protect the rights of citizens.

We remain the people’s advocate and conscience of our democracy!

Thomas Moore Conteh
Executive Director

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