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Mohamed Conteh, chairman, Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), addresses the press. NEC which had earlier said it would proceed with preparations despite the court injunction has since changed its position / Photo: SLNEC

Sierra Leone: Court halts presidential run-off, opposition cries foul

Uncertainty clouds Sierra Leone’s presidential election run-off, scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, as different institutions offer conflicting statements as to whether it will be held or not.

In a controversial ruling issued on Saturday (24 March), a high court in Freetown restrained the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and its chair from organizing the polls pending hearing of the case before it. The court thus granted a request by a member of the ruling party for an injunction to delay the rerun.

The party member, Ibrahim Sorie Koroma, had filed for the injunction on Thursday, saying there was evidence of electoral fraud that needed to be investigated before the poll could go ahead.

Opposition leader Julius Maada Bio finished slightly ahead of the incumbent party’s candidate in the first round of voting / Photo: JMB

 

The presidential election held on 6 March failed to produce a clear winner as none of the contestants won more than 55 per cent of the votes as prescribed by the constitution, leading to a run-off between the two leading candidate – Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress’ (APC) and Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party’s (SLPP).  

Bio of the SLPP took 43.3 percent of votes in the 7 March election, while Kamara of the APC took 42.7 percent. Turnout appeared to be around 85 percent of Sierra Leone’s 3.1 million voters.

The SLPP has described the court order as illegal, arguing that failure to hold the runoff on March 27 contravenes the constitutional provision which stipulates that a runoff must be held within fourteen days of the announcement of the previous election.

The SLPP describes the injunction as a ploy by the incumbent President Ernest Koroma and the APC to illegally extend the tenure of the president. Koroma, who cannot run again after consecutive five-year terms, has anointed Kamara as his successor.

Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress’ (middle) is the annointed candidate of the outgoing President Koroma / Photo: SKF

 

The civil society in Sierra Leone have also voiced their frustrations with the judiciary of the country, following the court decision to put the electoral process on hold, just two days to the elections.

In a statement issued on March 24, the civil society resolved that the runoff elections should be held on March 27 as scheduled.

While the opposition and civil society have all expressed optimism that the runoff election will be held on March 27 as scheduled, NEC which had earlier said it would proceed with preparations despite the court injunction has since changed its position.

In a statement acknowledging receipt of the court injunction, the commission said it would temporarily cease all logistical preparations for the run-off, pending the resolution of the matter before court on Monday (26 March).

Adira Kallo

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