Position statement on NEC proposed and recently revised nomination fees before Parliament.-Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.
Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone
Preamble: Taking part in the conduct of public affairs particularly through elections is a basic human right. HRCSL has the mandate as the National Human Rights Institution of Sierra Leone to promote and protect human rights of everybody.
HRCSL has been monitoring developments since 30th July, 2012 when the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced the initial nomination fees for the 2012 elections; the reaction of political parties, civil society institutions and the public. HRCSL notes that the increases have been condemned by a vast majority of all registered political parties, the bulk of civil society and the public as exorbitant and unreasonable.
HRCSL wishes to state the following:-
HRCSL notes the following in the process of fixing and announcing of the nominations fees:
- Taking into consideration the standard of living and earning power of the average Sierra Leonean as well as the per capita income (less than a dollar a day), HRCSL is of the view that the increases in the proposed nomination fees are astronomical and disproportionate.
- That there was no consultation with the political parties, before the initial fees were announced.
- That the time of notification for the proposed fees was too short, taking to consideration the date for the elections.
- That the argument by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) that contesting candidates should contribute to meeting the overall cost of conducting the elections is untenable, due to the fact that funding NEC is the responsibility of the Government of Sierra Leone, not political parties or politicians.
HRCSL wishes to point out that even as it is after the review by NEC, the increment:
- Is a potential ground for discrimination against low income earners and vulnerable groups such as women, youth and persons with disability, as only the rich and affluent will be able to contest.
- Is against the spirit of the TRC recommendations on affirmative action for youth and women’s participation in politics and public life and Goal 4 of the MDGs
- Undermines the Accra Principles for Electoral Justice which are being piloted in Sierra Leone and other West African nations, to which NEC as an electoral management has subscribed.
- Can serve as a serious barrier to participation as it could prevent economically disadvantaged women, children and youth from exercising their political rights especially the right to contest in an election, and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others.
Furthermore, HRCSL wishes to point out that the increases are against the following key international human rights instruments to which Sierra Leone is a party:
1. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Participation in political and public life
States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and shall undertake to:
(a) Ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected, inter alia.
2. Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Equality in Political and Public life at the national level
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right:
(a) To vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election
to all publicly elected bodies;
3. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen
b) To vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal
and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.
c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country
Position of HRCSL
- Acknowledges the steps taken by NEC to review the initially proposed parliamentary, mayoral, district council chairmanship and councillorship candidature fees;
- Urges Parliament to heed popular opinion to further reduce the NEC revised proposed fees, including the Le 100,000,000 (one hundred million Leones) fees for Presidential candidates, in order to ensure a level playing field in the electoral contest for newly registered political parties;
- Urges NEC to continue to constructively engage political parties throughout the electoral process as a confidence building mechanism, even where the electoral laws are silent on such consultations;
- Remains committed towards monitoring the electoral process as a means of ensuring free, fair and credible elections with popular participation that will produce a result that will be accepted by all parties.