Published 20 Feb 2013
I am Richard Howitt, Member of the European Parliament, Chief Observer for the European Union at the elections in Sierra Leone, joined by Tania Marques, Deputy Chief Observer and Javier Guttierez, Media Analyst and Press Officer.
This morning I am pleased to present the Final Report of the European Union Election Observation Mission. In this very room, some of you will remember that we delivered the preliminary assessment of the European Union two days after polling – and that we said the elections were “well-conducted, conducive to democratic consolidation but where the playing field was un-level”. In this report, we do not change this assessment. Instead, the sixty pages and thirty-one detailed recommendations of the report are about what happens next. How future elections can be improved. How democracy can be consolidated in Sierra Leone.
The challenge remains for the elections here to be more open and inclusive, and to win greater confidence amongst the political parties but also within the wider population.Our recommendations include suggestions for constitutional and legal change, to promote participation, openness, to better resolve disputes, to better regulate the funding of campaigns, to take further measures to protect the integrity of the process and to maintain and consolidate non-violence.
First, constitutional and Legal Change.
We say the right to participate in public affairs would be strengthened by constitutional amendments on citizenship to broaden the right to stand for election, to allow independent candidates to run for the presidency and by removing reservations against equality for women. We suggest amending the Public Elections Act to reduce restrictions on standing for elections for employees of the public service.
Second, Promoting participation in elections.
We call for legislation to promote the
participation of women in political parties and as candidates.
Third, more open and transparent Elections.
We call for the publication of an
electoral calendar so that all stages of the process with
deadlines are known in advance. We recommend that there is
progressive announcement of Presidential election results from
around the country, and that full results by polling stations
Fourth, better resolving disputes.
To be effective, we call on the judicial system of the country to ensure that objections to nominations and appeals including petitions against results themselves are resolved in a time period so that the outcome does not prejudice the rights of those involved or the election process itself.
Fifth, better regulation of the funding of campaigns.
We are sensitive to the economic
realities of Sierra Leone. But we suggest the PPRC should be
given a greater role to monitor campaign finance and the use of
public resources. We call for the order on nomination fees to be
repealed or replaced.
Sixth, the integrity of the ballot.
I remind you that our preliminary
assessment was that this was sufficiently protected.
Seventh, and very importantly, in welcoming that these elections were largely peaceful, we believe the efforts towards non-violence should be sustained at future elections too.
The campaigns for non-violence, some
involving the parties themselves, were clearly influential and
we recommend that they should be repeated.
Ladies and Gentlemen, confidence between the political parties and in the population and the strong desire to prevent any return to conflict have indeed been key challenges at these elections.
The European Union Election Observation Mission has had its own Mission – to provide independent and objective analysis. Each and every one of our recommendations is offered to you today in the same spirit.
I thank you once again the 100 European
colleagues who have taken part in our work, and the European
Union countries who we represent and whose diplomatic
representatives are present with us within in this room. We call
the European Union and others in the international community to
themselves adopt these recommendations and to continue to work
in partnership with this country to seek to implement them in
our joint endeavours to promote principles of democracy, good
governance and universal human rights. But most of all, I thank
and wish success to the people and organisations of Sierra
Leone. Ultimately, the future for democracy in this country is
in your hands.