Virtually all major stakeholders of the electioneering process in Sierra Leone have come to the conclusion that the November 17 elections were generally free, fair, and peaceful, and that isolated reports of irregularities would not be able to affect the overall outcome. International observers including those from the EU, the AU, ECOWAS, the Commonwealth, and the Carter Centre have all acknowledged the unprecedented smooth-running of the process. No less a person than the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has come out with a statement to hail the peaceful conduct of the elections.
However, even as official results are yet to be announced, the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has already made several statements tantamount to undermining the credibility of the process. The party’s flag-bearer, Julius Maada Bio, came out with a statement Sunday threatening not to accept the results due to so-called “blatant blatant stuffing…with full complicity of NEC staff…”, stating that he will “ensure that no one, I repeat no one steals the mandate of our votes or alter the results to our disadvantage.” The Secretary General of the party Sulaiman Banja Tejan Sie and a so-called Bio spokesman Kalilu Totangi have all come out openly making statements that are not helpful to the ethical protection of the process.
Notwithstanding, with provisional results continually coming in from around the country through Star Radio and the Independent Radio Network (IRN), the general trend is a continuous overall lead by both President Ernest Bai Koroma and his ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) over their main challengers in the SLPP. These provisional reports so far indicate that the APC would have more than 70 seats in Parliament and the President could get up to 60% of the national votes cast. Around the country and even abroad, APC supporters are having mooted parties and celebrations, with some chanting their party’s anthem, ‘There is victory for us… In the struggles of APC, there’s victory for us…’
At a press conference yesterday at their party headquarters, APC Secretary General Victor Bockarie Foh stopped short of giving supporters the go-ahead to celebrate, while insisting they were waiting for the final results to be read out by the NEC Chairperson Christiana Thorpe. He however re-echoed an earlier statement made on TV by Information Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo that ‘you cannot stop people from celebrating in their compounds’.
Meanwhile, international observers have challenged Maada Bio to provide evidence of allegations he made about ballot-stuffing.
“I think the gentlemanly thing for Maada Bio to do is to either wait for the results; or, as he says he has a mechanism of knowing all the results, he can go ahead and congratulate President Koroma, instead of decrying a process that has been given a clean bill of health even by the Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission in addition to both local and international observers,” Deputy Information Minister Sheka Tarawalie said in Makeni.
The announcement of the results by NEC is not expected to be very different from the current provisional ones. NEC Chairperson Christiana Thorpe was on a blitzkrieg helicopter tour of the provincial headquarters of Bo, Kenema and Makeni yesterday, urging her collation staff to continue to do the good work and faster, as the people are anxiously waiting for the announcement of the results.
It is expected the results would be read out any time between now and Saturday.