Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 March 2018:
On Tuesday, 27 March 2018, the people of Sierra Leone will do it all over again. They will be going out to vote in what was announced by the country’s Chief Electoral Commissioner – Mr Mohammed N’fa-Alie Conteh as a run-off election, to decide who will be the next president.
After seven long days of nail biting suspense, voters in the country have finally been informed by the Election Commission that following the counting and recounting of ballots across the country – including the nullification of votes in polling stations where evidence of electoral malpractice was found, none of the 15 candidates has won the required 55% to form a government.
The run-off is a two-horse race affair between the ruling APC candidate – Dr Samura Kamara who polled 42.7%, and the opposition SLPP candidate – Julius Maada Bio who received slightly better with 43.5%.
What the rest of the results show is the massive gulf between the two traditional parties – APC and SLPP, and the other fourteen parties, in terms of popularity.
But notwithstanding this harsh reality, both the ruling APC and the SLPP will now be appealing to the supporters of the other parties for their votes at the run-off.
This is highly encouraging news for many in Sierra Leone – including the Sierra Leone Telegraph, that have always been advocating for a government of national unity in Sierra Leone, to promote national cohesion and ensure that the best human resource available across all of the political parties, can be concertedly co-ordinated and utilised to form a government that is best capable of managing the affairs of the country.
The newcomer on the political landscape, Dr Kandeh Yumkella and his NGC party has done wonderfully well to come third with 174,031 votes – which is almost 7% of the total votes cast. Dr Yumkella is now expected along with Sam Sumana and his C4C party who polled 3.5% to form the backbone of any coalition block needed by either the APC or SLPP to now win the presidency and form a coalition government.
With at least 13% of votes now needed by either APC or SLPP at the run-off, not even Dr Yumkella and Sam Sumana’s aggregate of 10% will be sufficient to take either the APC or the SLPP to State House.
They are going to need almost all the other opposition parties to lend their weight to their campaign for victory.
Never before has Sierra Leone’s election been so interesting, tense and yet full of so much promise of a better future, with not one single party commanding a majority support.
So what did the Chief Electoral Commissioner say today?
Speaking on national television this evening, this is what the Chief Electoral Commissioner said:
“After deliberations with political parties requesting recounts, the commission ordered recounts in 154 polling stations. Results from these polling stations are included in this result.
“The results from 221 polling stations were excluded, including where the votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters (including voters included on a supplementary list). Accordingly, pursuant to section 87 (2) of the Public Elections Act 2012, the results of those polling stations are declared null and void and are not included in this result.
“Following counting and tallying, the number of invalid votes cast at the presidential election on 7th March 2018, was 139,427. The number of valid votes is 2,537,122. “The number of valid votes cast for each candidate, and the percentage of the valid votes received is as follows:
“In exercise of the powers conferred upon me, as Chief Electoral Commissioner/ Chairman and National Returning Officer of the National Electoral Commission by Sections 52(2) and 94(4) of the Public Elections Act 2012 and Section 42(3) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, I Mohamed N’fah-Ali Conteh, do hereby declare that since none of the candidates of the parties for the presidential election received 55% of the valid votes cast, pursuant to section 43(2)(e) and (f) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, there will be a second election (run-off) exclusively between the All People’s Congress (APC) Presidential candidate Dr Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio.
“Polling in this second election (run-off) between the two aforementioned candidates will be conducted nationwide on Tuesday 27th March 2018.”
Tonight, the Sierra Leone Telegraph has learnt that both Maada Bio and Samura Kamara’s senior advisers are already at work, making serious overtures to the opposition parties in what is going to be two weeks of vigorous horse trading.
It will not be impossible to see a few cross-carpeting and several allegations of brown envelopes (cash for votes) changing hands.
Will Dr Kandeh Yumkella and Sam Sumana be joining forces with Julius Maada Bio to form a coalition?
The Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that Bio may have to concede the vice presidency to Dr Yumkella in return for his support, and offer a senior ministerial job to Sam Sumana.
Equally, the other opposition parties will have to join such a coalition led by the SLPP, if Bio is to form a government.
If not, the ruling APC will remain in power for another five years, assuming they too can galvanise the support of Dr Yumkella and Sam Sumana, along with the other opposition parties .
But the Sierra Leone Telegraph is of the opinion that both Dr Yumkella and Sam Sumana will find it very difficult to join an APC led coalition, after the awful treatment meted out to both by the ruling APC.
Sam Sumana was sacked as the country’s vice president and humiliated by the ruling APC. He took the APC to the ECOWAS court and won his legal battle.
Dr. Yumkella was stripped of his US citizenship by the ruling APC, who also took him to the Supreme Court, so as to have him excluded from taking part in the elections.
Yumkella’s professional integrity and birthright were defiled by the ruling APC. The court case is yet to be concluded.
But the ruling APC have been quick to point out the poor treatment and violent attacks Yumkella was subjected to, at the hands of the Paopa supporters of Julius Maada Bio. They say that Yumkella, who is also from the northern region – the political heartland of the APC, would be better off joining forces with the ruling APC, than to pitch tent with Julius Maada, whom they refer to as a southerner.
The ruling APC is now using their tribal card to the disappointment of many in the country. Tribalism must have no place in Sierra Leone’s politics. But will this work?
In the 2007 and in 2012 elections, APC won far more votes in the SLPP south and eastern heartland, than SLPP were able to gain in the APC northern stronghold. Hence they lost those elections with a wide margin.
But today, the wind of change has blown the other direction. In the 2018 elections, the opposition SLPP have won far more votes at the first round in the ruling APC stronghold, than APC have been able to poll in the south and east of the country. This is why it will be very difficult for APC to play the ‘nasty’ tribal card successfully at the run-off.
Yumkella’s decision to either join forces with the ruling APC or the opposition SLPP – of which he was once a Grand Chief Patron and an aspiring presidential candidate, must be based on what is good for the country, and his change agenda. After having spent the last two years accusing the ruling APC of serious corruption, ineptitude, poor governance and lack of direction, it is unlikely he will join the ruling APC to help them contest and win the run-off election.
There are interesting times ahead of the run-off, which will take place on Tuesday, 27th March 2018. And ironically, the next day – 28th March, lawyers representing Dr Yumkella will be facing ruling APC lawyers at the Supreme Court, where Judges will hear arguments as to why the ruling APC party are saying that Dr Yumkella along with hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans with dual citizenship, must not be allowed to contest elections in the land of their birth – Sierra Leone.