Femi Claudius Cole’s Unity Party And Three Others Barred From Sierra Leone’s June 24 Elections
Sierra Leone’s Political Party Regulation Commission (PPRC) has said that Unity Party (UP), Coalition for Change (C4C), National Democratic Party (NDP), and United National People’s Party (UNPP) will not contest in the June 24, 2023 elections.
Abdulai Bangura, the chairman of PPRC, told Radio Democracy that the parties did not meet the minimum benchmark stated in the Political Parties Act to contest in a national election. Beyond registration, political parties must conduct intra-party elections, revise the party constitution, make pre-election asset and liability declarations, establish regional party offices, and submit an audited financial statement to the PPRC annually.
Chairman Bangura said only the Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP), the All People’s Congress (APC), and the National Grand Coalition (NGC) have met these requirements.
However, with 17 political parties registered with the commission, Bangura said a compromise was made to open up the space for more political parties to contest the elections. He said other political parties that couldn’t fully comply with the criteria set, were graded by the PPRC based on the percentage of criteria they have fulfilled.
Femi Claudius Cole, of Unity Party, the only known woman leader of a political party, said that both the PPRC and the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) are conniving to close up the political space with “impunity”.
Ms. Cole tried to have the decision overturned. Her lawyers wrote the commission requesting a review of the decision against the Unity Party, but it made no difference. Chairman Bangura said the final list has been submitted to the ECSL.
The PPRC has announced a series of regulatory actions ahead of the election, including a ban on political street processions and campaign mode to regulate the movement of party supporters to and from campaign-designated areas.
Not everyone is pleased with the PPRC’s ban on rallies. The main opposition APC party holds a dissenting view about the ban on political parties.
“State tightening of political space is choking the citizenry. Mandatory Police Clearances for political meetings, convoys, conventions, jogging, masquerades, and now suddenly Rallies. How then, can the public express open support, the salt & pepper in the Egusi soup of democracy”, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, a senior member of the APC wrote on Twitter.
Earlier reports on Twitter suggested that the ban has been lifted on street rallies, but Bangura confirmed that it has not been lifted, but guidelines have been laid to regulate the conduct of supporters in commuting to and from the designated campaign areas.
The chairman also said that in the coming weeks, the Commission will kick off the “unhindered access program” with plans to visit all districts to engage paramount chiefs and stakeholders to allow political parties free access in their areas. A peace march will also be held on the cooling-off day to encourage citizens to vote and campaign against hate speech, across the country.