By Arfang M.S. Camara
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it is waiting for government’s approval of its new budget to kick-start voter registration ahead of the referendum for the new constitution and subsequent elections.
Joseph Colley, the IEC’s communication Director, who was speaking in an interview with Kerr Fatou on Monday said that they have earlier planned to commence registrations on the 28th May 2020, after having all their staff trained, with the exception of directors and commissioners whose trainings were planned, but the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing declaration of a State of Public Emergency put everything at a halt.
“We presented our new budget to the government [in order] to continue the process during the pandemic. We trained our whole staff before the state of public emergency after having someone from Niger. We were supposed to train the directors and commissioners two weeks before the state of public emergency declaration was made and we had to postpone everything,” he said.
Now it appears that the IEC is ready to move things forward: “we cannot afford to not conduct the registration because election is time-bond. We now have to strategize to see ways and means of conducting the registrations. We need the procurement of equipment for the prevention of Covid-19 so that we can conduct the exercise for the referendum and subsequent elections” he added.
If they decide to go ahead with work during the period of the pandemic, Mr. Colley said that they would need to get new materials such as personal protective equipment for their staff and hand washing materials for the people in order to observe WHO and Ministry of Health Covid-19 regulatory guidelines
He added that they are strategizing to determine what can be done. “The first 45 days emergency period has elapsed and we are now into another 21 days. So we are now looking at different scenarios. Maybe in the next week or two, we would be able to come up with a definitive plan and would know when to start the registration process.”
According to him, they want to make sure that they register everybody, who is eligible, for the referendum, noting that the last general registration was conducted in 2011 and the supplementary one in 2016.
He stated that they could not use the 2016 registration because they feel that a lot of the youth may have left the country while a lot more equally returned after 2016.
In the same vain, he said that from 2016 to 2020, lots of people would have reached 18 years of age and if general registration of voters is not conducted, these people could be disenfranchised, and for the referendum to pass, at least 50% of all registered voters should vote.
On concerns about the virus, he said, “we cannot just keep on shifting dates for the commencement of the registration. So we have to look at ways and means of living with the virus. This means that we have to work by taking preventive measures for both our workers and the general public who are coming to register.”