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Sierra Leone: Elections

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government have taken to ensure that elections in Sierra Leone are free and fair; for how long he expects international observers to remain in Sierre Leone; and whether they will remain there throughout the election process. (146931)

We are funding a £3 million programme of electoral support to help ensure free and fair elections. This consists of support for international observers and a coalition of national election monitors, the ‘National Elections Watch’, which intends to host observers in every polling station in Sierra Leone; training for political parties; addressing the gender disparity surrounding elections; and strengthening the capacity of national and local media to cover the elections. We have also committed £4 million to the UN Development Programme's “basket fund”, which finances Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission and contributes to the cost of the elections. In addition, our high commission in Freetown is working with the full range of political and civil society to support free and credible elections. It is essential that Sierra Leoneans should be able to participate fully in the elections and that the result should reflect their choices.

On present plans the EU will send 28 long term observers from 15 July to 16 September; 42 short term observers from 6-16 August and, should there be a second round of voting in the presidential elections, 36 short term observers from 2-13 September. We are looking forward to contributing candidates as both short and long term observers.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI), an international non-governmental organisation with expertise on electoral issues, will send 35-40 short term observers who will stay for one week, including election week, and seven short term observers who will stay for one week in mid-July. NDI has already deployed six long term observers who will stay until the end of August. NDI’s observers are being part-funded by the Department for International Development. UK Government election observers will also be deployed for the critical phases of the electoral process and for the elections themselves.