Sierra Leone opposition files petition against election results

Leader of the Sierra Leone People's Party Julius Maada Bio. Photo | FILE 

The opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has filed a petition at the High Court in Freetown formally challenging the legality of last month`s elections.

The opposition party, whose candidate was defeated by incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress (APC) in the November 17 presidential election, said the process was fraudulent.

Koroma got 59 per cent of the votes, ahead of his closest rival, Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio of the SLPP, who got 37 per cent.

Despite frantic efforts to have the opposition accept defeat and move on to avoid instability, it said it is convinced that the widespread malpractices were grave enough to have robbed its candidate of victory.

The petition was filed Friday 30th November, four days after the result was announced, but within the seven-day deadline given by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

The party wants to the court to overturn the election outcome and rule in favour of a rerun.

The NEC had acknowledged irregularities, which included excess votes and pre-stamped ballot papers. But it said these could not have in anyway affected the outcome.

“Why did she order a recount and then suddenly stopped the recount, and went ahead to hurriedly declare the incumbent after official hours,” Easmond Ngakwe, one of the legal advisors of the SLPP, demanded in an interview with Africa Review Monday.

He added that they believed that the malpractices were so widespread that they certainly may have affected the outcome.

Many here believe the opposition is up for another fruitless mission given a similar experience following the last polls in 2007.

The NEC then annulled hundreds of thousands of votes from opposition strongholds, which the SLPP said was unfair. The party up to now holds the NEC responsible for that previous electoral loss.

This time the Commission only annulled votes from five polling stations in areas considered to be APC strongholds, which were affected by malpractices.

Mr Ngakwe said this points to the unfairness of the NEC chairperson Dr Christiana Thorpe.

“If left unchallenged, this could lead to a de facto one party state, and it is a mockery to democracy,” he said.

"We know peace is paramount but justice has to do with peace.”

Commitment to peace

Meanwhile, President Koroma met Monday with the SLPP leader over ongoing electoral standoff.

Mr Bio was at State House together with a delegation of his party leadership as part of efforts to thrash out issues surrounding the opposition's refusal to accept the poll outcome.

The opposition has already called for boycott of all government activities, including parliament which is slated for opening on Friday.

After a marathon meeting behind closed doors on Monday, officials of the two parties issued a joint statement describing it as a “frank discussion.” Reportedly the defeated opposition candidate reiterated his commitment to peace and security in the country.

“Sierra Leone can only develop when we have effective lines of communication between the leadership of the two parties,” the statement quoted Mr Bio as saying, adding that the position of President Koroma as President of Sierra Leone was not in contention.

The president was cited urging continued “dialogue of this nature in the interest of peace and the promotion of democracy”.

He also suggested the convening of a further meeting with a view to concluding the several issues raised in the course of the meeting.

However, the statement said Mr Bio still maintained his stance that the elections were flawed.

The president, the statement added, advised that all complaints be directed through the right channels.

The meeting between the president and the opposition, which has been widely hailed by supporters of both sides on social media, was the result of an intervention by leaders of a Christian organisation called the 'Body of Christ'.

Both President Koroma and Mr Bio are practising Christians.

The State House statement said President Koroma himself had asked mediators to allow him have a one-on-one discussion with the SLPP leadership, which included Mr Bio's running mate, Dr Kadi Ceesay, together with the national chairman and secretary-general of the party.

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