A leading opposition party in Sierra Leone has given the electoral commission a two-week ultimatum to announce the date for the presidential election or face mass protests.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has been under pressure to declare the exact date for the polls, which are supposed to be held in February 2018.
According to the Constitution, NEC has the mandate, in consultation with the president, to declare the date of the election a month or two before the vote.
The opposition and civil society groups, however, say the delay in the making the announcement potentially disadvantages prospective contenders by leaving many political parties unprepared.
Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP) presidential aspirant, gave NEC until February 23 this year to announce the actual date or they protest.
“Enough is enough. We have one more year to go…The election date is very important. This is not a favour,” Mr Mansaray said on Wednesday.
He threatened to carry out a nationwide tour where he would ask his supporters to march to all electoral commission offices across the country.
ADP is third largest political party in Sierra Leone.
Uneven playing field
The National Election Watch, a coalition of civil society groups which monitors the electoral process, first raised the issue in November saying delay in declaring the poll date does not create a level playing field and potentially locks out those in public service intending to seek office as they are required to resign 12 months before the election.
Sierra Leoneans elect the president and Members of Parliament every five years.
The local council elections, held every four years, should have been conducted last December but were postponed due to delay caused by a national census exercise. They will be held together with the presidential election in February.
Early announcement of the poll date was also part of recommendations by international election observers. They said it would ease tension and encourage more participation.
Already about half a dozen Cabinet members, who are said to be eyeing political seats, risk falling victim of the constitutional requirement to resign at least a year before the polls.
Reports of an alleged plan by President Ernest Bai Koroma to extend his term of office are also fuelling tensions.
Last month, the president reprimanded those agitating for the poll date saying that the Constitution was clear on when to make the announcement
KEMO CHAM, Salone