Spotlight on the IEC

Spotlight on the IEC

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The Independent Electoral Commission over the weekend completed the first and one of the most important schedule of events of the 2021 presidential election – the nomination process. Truth be told, although not everyone is happy, they have not done a nut job of it so far.

The impressive and orderly set-up both at the commission’s offices and around it coupled with the sheer amount of work, going through the voluminous paper work of more than 20 aspirants within a short space of time and the professional way the verdict of the screening process was announced, all go to tell that the Alieu Momarr Njai commission is on top of its game.

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However, what anyone with even a half brain realises is that the IEC needs a proficient and competent legal officer or adviser capable of correctly interpreting all the laws dealing with electoral matters to guide the commission so that all its actions would be consistent at all times with the law. This would help increase trust and credibility in the actions of the commission.

The handling of the public viewing and scrutiny of the nomination papers of the candidates leaves much to be desired. First, the time allocated for viewing – 5 minutes only per person – is grossly inadequate and insisting that journalists should have voter cards in addition to their accreditation cards is not just illogical but an unnecessary layered bureaucracy. The law didn’t saythat ; it says only those wishing to object should have a voter card. 

Therefore, the commission’s decision to come up with unanticipated discretionary rules which restricted access to, or allow very little time to the public and media for scrutiny, is not helpful. It is not the business of the IEC to protect any data meant for public consumption or interest. In fact the IEC should make it a condition for nomination, to publish all the assets declared by aspiring candidates on its website for transparency.

Additionally, and again for the sake of transparency, the public announcement of the rejection of those not qualified should have spelt out the options available to the affected persons and other related information. That is good communication.

And talking about communication, there is an increasing concern that because of his old age, and no ageism intended here, the speech defect symptoms of the chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai, are getting worse. He could barely read out words audibly and coherently.  Perhaps it may be necessary now to get someone next to him to repeat his statements for real time understanding by all stakeholders and the public.

The IEC’s next challenge will be how to fairly regulate airtime for all candidates on the state media during the campaign period. In the past, GRTS deliberately ignored IEC guidelines and unfairly accorded time to the ruling party more than the stipulated time guided by the IEC. This is a blatant abuse of fair play and IEC must put its foot down to ensure parity in the use of state facilities including GRTS.

Equally, campaign schedules must be adhered to without discrimination to avoid clashes between parties. The IEC must ensure that no undue preference is given to one above others.  We wish all candidates good luck and the country a peaceful campaign and election.