September 24, 2023

Watchdog workforce’s knowledge raises questions about Sierra Leone election effects

In Sierra Leone, a watchdog group responsible for monitoring elections has reported irregularities in voting results, announced on June 27, that returned incumbent President Julius Maada Bio to another term with 56.2% of the tally.

National Election Watch said in a statement that it “has noted large inconsistencies in turnout and vote shares between the presidential and parliamentary election in multiple districts, which will require further clarity” from the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone.

Among the findings are large disparities in voting for opposition candidate Samura Kamara of the All People’s Congress (APC) party in places like Falaba, where the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) tally was higher for Maada Bio than it was for the parliamentary candidates. Similar disparities occurred in Karene and Port Loko.

The rates of invalid ballots were “inconsistent with historical trends,” said the NEW. The expected rate for invalid ballots in the presidential election was 10 times lower than projections and the results of previous elections.

Kamara and the APC have disputed the election results, which gave Kamara 41.6% of the vote. The results assured that no runoff was needed. The APC has called for new elections.

Political tensions have run high in Sierra Leone, with reports of electoral violence both before and after results were announced. They include a claim from Kamara that he faced an assassination attempt on his life by security forces who surrounded APC headquarters in Freetown.

Democracy advocate Jeffrey Smith, who has worked closely with African candidates and monitored elections in various countries, said Wednesday that the NEW report shows “with concrete evidence and data, how the June 24 election was brazenly rigged” by Maada Bio.

Image: Presidency Sierra Leone file

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