Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 April 2018:
In this tightly contested race, turnout in many polling stations at the Sierra Leone presidential election runoff held yesterday 31 March 2018, was as low as 50%. This can be explained mainly by the disenchantment many voters felt, after the massive rigging that was reported at the first round of elections on 7 March 2018.
In particular, supporters of Dr Yumkella’s NGC party and to some extent the C4C party of Sam Sumana say that they bear the brunt of the massive electoral malpractice that prompted the High Court to order an injunction on the conduct of the runoff last week.
Huge swathes of supporters of the NGC and C4C voted with their feet yesterday by staying home, or deliberately went to the polling booth to spoil their vote. (Photo: Dr and Mrs Kandeh Yumkella going out to vote at the runoff yesterday: How did they vote?).
It is now more than twenty-one hours since polling closed and the counting of votes started. But already, as expected, both the ruling APC and the opposition SLPP are claiming victory.
Early indications of results tallied so far show the opposition SLPP leading the APC.
And if this trend continues, there is little doubt Maada Bio will secure more than the 50% needed to win the presidency.
‘But not so’, says the ruling APC party’s National Secretary General – Alhaji Osman Yansaneh, who in a rushed statement last night, issued this statement to shore up morale in the APC camp:
“The leadership of the All People’s Congress (APC) wishes to extend sincere thanks and appreciation to party members, supporters and the general public for turning out to vote for the party earlier today. Provisional results trickling in put the APC in the lead. We do not expect this trend to change.
“As counting is going on, we implore our members and supporters to remain vigilant to ensure that votes cast at polling stations are protected.
“In particular, we strongly urge all agents to ensure that RRFs are collected from the National Electoral Commission staff after counting, and ensure that they accompany the ballot boxes and other sensitive election materials to the District Tally Centres. We will keep you updated on developments.” (Photo: Ruling APC candidate – Dr Samura Kamara voting yesterday).
In response to the claim of victory by the APC, the National Publicity Secretary of the SLPP – Lahai Lawrence Leema, this afternoon took the high ground to position the SLPP ahead of the ruling APC at the polls. This is what he said:
“In light of the results so far in, the SLPP is grateful and humble for the resilience and resolve of Sierra Leoneans to vote change. Indeed, change is here and Retired Brigadier Bio shall soon be declared as the next president elect of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
“Having taken over Kono with a pole margin and increase performances in Koinadugu, Falaba, Kambia and Western Area, it is certain that the SLPP has scored 55 percent over its counterpart in this presidential run-off election.
“Coupled with the landslide victory of Kenema, Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba, Pujehun. Suffice it to say it is over. Brigadier General Retired Julius Bio is Sierra Leone’s next president. (Photo: Maada Bio and his daughter).
“The leadership however, encourage all its membership and change loving Sierra Leoneans to be patient and wait for the official announcement of the run off by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The risen Christ is our strength…on behalf of the SLPP leadership, I say happy Easter to all celebrating this optimistic Sunday.”
So what do supporters of the National Grand Coalition think of the runoff?
Supporters of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party say that the low voter turnout is the result of the massive electoral fraud suffered by their party on the 7th March 2018. ‘Voter backlash’ – they call it.
“The very low voter turnout, watching AYV this morning comes as no surprise to me. We should not be attributing this to no other reason. This is a clear manifestation of the resentment against these two parties that have destroyed our country. It is also a clear and strong message to the international observers that the people are protesting because their votes for change in the first round were stolen by the status quo,” says an NGC supporter.
Others in the NGC are even more blunt about the low voter turnout. They refer to it as “Sierra Leoneans protesting for their stolen KKY Votes”.
This is how another NGC supporter reported the voter turnout:
“Low voter turnout is widely observed across the country in the just concluded Presidential Runoff Election between the Ruling All Peoples Congress and Main Opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party.
Most electorate say they lost interest in the elections when the National Grand Coalition Presidential Contender – Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Yumkella was no more in the equation for State House.
It could be recalled the both SLPP and APC just like NGC and the Coalition for Change complained of suspected irregularities in the March 7 Elections to the National Electoral Commission. These complaints were not adequately addressed.
For this reason, the electorate believe both traditional parties conspired with NEC to defraud the election that informed the Runoff, hence they reserved exercising their right to vote in this election.
In Matru Jong a Commercial Bike Rider said NGC polled zero votes in the center where he voted for the party.
“So what is the essence of voting in a country where the people’s will is always stolen?” He questioned, stating that he prefers not to participate in the process.
Those that voted said they did not see reason to vote for either of the two candidates contesting, thus they cast void votes.
A first-time voter in Freetown said she was not excited about the process. She said she drew a voting space for Dr. Yumkella on her ballot paper.
Another in Bo said she blames the Electoral Commission for stealing their NGC Votes for APC and SLPP.
I have just exercise my democratic franchise as a Distinguished Grand Chief Patron and Lifetime Member of the National Grand Coalition and citizen of the Republic of Sierra Leone. If I have knowingly and unknowingly hurt anyone in this electioneering process, am sorry. (Photo: Disgruntled voters spoilt their ballot by marking NGC in both boxes).
Everything about life is a learning process. May the best man win. Above all, we are Sierra Leoneans. There is no place like home. May We Continue to keep the peace.
Let me again express my sincere thanks and appreciation to all those who supported me during this turbulent electioneering process, especially to my critics, wife, family members including KKY, and many others.
Until 2023 with KKY, am done with Sierra Leone politics, while I will still be here accelerating societal impact as a young man.
Everything in life is a learning process. This election has taught me a lot of learning experiences in life. I have made new friends, enemies and family. It is now time to go back to my normal life and continue impacting change in my community and the country as a whole through family, lecture, full-time business, journalism, travel, furthering my education, etc, etc.”
Another angry NGC supporter says:
“My fellow Sierra Leoneans, there is no reason to be surprise about voting irregularities in today’s election. There is no system in place worthy of stopping any of such irregularities from happening.
“With all the massive amount of complaints from all 16 political parties and majority of the local and international observers of the March 7th election, the powers that be still agreed to accept the results and went ahead with the runoff.
“So, what are you expecting? Do we expect good to come out of evil? Come on my people, let’s wake up. We want change, but we still accept the fake, falsified results of the March 7th election. We want change, but we agreed that the two main elements of political backwardness in Sierra Leone must go on to the runoff.
“We are really a confused nation. Both parties are looking for ways to gain the upper hand. We need to repent and ask Allah/ God for forgiveness.
“The outcome of this runoff result will change nothing. If the system is rotten, how can you expect anything within the system to be good.
“Information coming to me from most places, is that voting is less than expected. Even two of my colleagues from the UN who are observers called me from Kamabai and Sembehun, and they are complaining that the turnout is very very low. Let’s wait and see what the result will look like. May Allah/God help us.”
The official results of this contentious presidential election runoff will be announced in the next day or two. Until then, speculations are growing as to who has actually won the presidency.
Will it be Julius Maada Bio at the State House or Dr Samura Mathew Kamara?