By KABS KANU :
The nation was subjected to one of its longest wait ever for the final results of a General Election –And when announced announced 48 hours later, the results continued to show a statistical dead heat between the bitterest rivals–The ruling All People’s Congress ( APC) and the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ), and the two parties will go into a nail-biting runoff on Tuesday March 27.
Since the Presidential , Legislative and local council elections in Sierra Leone on March 7, the nation has had to wait a whole breathless, anxious and tension-packed week to know the final outcome of what has now turned out to be the first round of the contest. With different radio stations especially the Independent Radio Network ( IRN ) calling provisional results from the various polling stations, while the National Elections Commission ( NEC ) continued to remind Sierra Leoneans that only it had the legal mandate to provide certified results, it took the NEC three days to declare the first 25% of collated results on Saturday March 10 , in which the APC presidential candidate Dr. Samura Kamara led by 17, 000 votes. This was followed by another 25% release on Sunday morning when the opposition SLPP presidential flagbearer, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio wiped out Dr. Kamara’s lead to a mere 2, 000 votes , after which SLPP supporters in the country and the diaspora smelt what they thought was impending victory and kicked off wild celebrations . By the time the 75% of the results were announced , the SLPP had stormed into a 12,000 votes lead.
With NEC often unceremoniously changing the hours of promised announcement of results , especially Sunday evening, it has been a nerve -wracking ordeal in every household in Sierra Leone and in the diaspora , with regards to announcing the final 25% of the results, with the wait made even more anxious by the SLPP , who started announcing that they had the final results in their possession and that they had won the contest by even crossing the 55 % threshold , which was constitutionally required for a candidate to become President. Schools had closed since the day of polling on March 7 with parents fearing to send their children out for fear of post-election violence when the results are announced. Shop -owners and street traders intermittently closed their businesses for fear of chaos.
NEC was to have announced the final 25% yesterday, but after the hall had been jampacked with journalists, diplomats, local and international observers etc, it postponed the announcement to today . The excuse was that after some parties complained against over voting, a recount of the ballots in many constituencies was in progress and had not been completed. Then followed another restless night of suspense with many APC supporters, especially females, calling to say that they were overstressed and there were unconfirmed reports of people suffering from rapid heart beats and heart pains.
Today was another tense day in the nation. The final announcement was moved from 3pm to 7pm and though the hall had become crowded at 7pm, people were kept waiting for almost another hour by NEC Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Nfa Allie Conteh and his commissioners before he finally appeared and addressed the edgy, nervous and stressed crowd and the nation and then announced the results ( Which are shown below ) :
From the final results, as it had been obvious during the duration of the counting and release of results, either of the APC and SLPP could have made the 55%, but their chances were undermined by extraneous circumstances. For the APC, if they had snatched the Kono votes which they lost because of the Sam Sumana factor, and had stopped the NGC flagbearer, Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella ( KKY ) from eating into their strongholds in the North , there is nothing that could have stopped them from getting the 55%. When you consider also that there were about 16 more parties arrayed against the APC, the party’s second place performance is very impressive. It must also be borne in mind that the 200 polling stations where votes were nullified for over-voting affected the APC strongholds more than the SLPP’s.
The SLPP performed very well, and they could have produced a total blowout, winning it at the first ballot if they had used Kandeh Yumkella ( assuming that the people of their Southeastern strongholds had accepted him and voted for him en masse as they did for Bio). Though Bio has reason to believe that his performance in the APC strongholds markedly improved , compared to 2012, he has not upended the APC in the Western Area and the North . He however performed fairly well.