Friday, March 5, 2021

What does the law say about the postponement of the date of election by the IEC?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

After the Niamina West seat became vacant due to the sudden demise of Demba Sowe, Foroyaa did quote section 84 which obliges the Independent Electoral Commission to hold a by election within 90 days of the occurrence of a vacancy. The IEC had scheduled 16th April, 2020 for the holding of the by election. Before going to press Foroyaa received the following press release from the IEC indicating the indefinite postponement of the by election:

“Acting in accordance with section 127 of the Elections Act, the Independent Electoral Commission, hereby informs the general public that the by election for Niamina West Constituency is postponed.

“The Commission will inform the general public when a new date for the by-election is rescheduled.”

Section 127 of the Elections Act states:

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(I) Where an issue arises relating to electoral matters which is not addressed by this Act or any other law, the Commission shall resolve the issue in keeping with the standards and rules of natural justice and fairness.

(2) A decision of the Commission with respect to an issue arising under sub­section (1) shall be final and shall not be called into question in any court of law.

Section 84 of the Act states:

“(1) If, for any reason, the seat to an electoral division to which a candidate had been declared elected under section 80 becomes vacant and in consequence a by-election becomes necessary, the Commission shall hold another election for that electoral division in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and this Act.

(2) Except where a vacancy occurs within nine months of the anticipated dissolution of the National Assembly or Local Government Council, the Commission shall appoint an election day for by-election for a member to represent a constituency or Local Government Area not later than ninety days after the seat became vacant.”

Section 84 and section 127 must be read in tandem and not in isolation. Foroyaa will interview the IEC to find out how they are to handle the two dictates under the same law. This calls for careful interpretation to avoid arbitrariness exercising direction and control over electoral bodies. Wide consultation is necessary before such decisions are made.

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