Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 March 2018:
Yesterday, the National Election Watch (NEW) published a statement, accusing the presidential candidate for the SLPP party – Julius Maada Bio, of making “inflammatory statements” on national media.
NEW said: “Our attention has been drawn to recent statements made by the presidential candidate of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, whilst responding to the party’s position relating to the recent interim injunction. This was also followed by the statement made by the National Publicity Secretary of the SLPP, Lahai Lawrence Leema on the AYV on Sunday TV program, insinuating the possibility of a coup d’état in the event that the Run-off election did not take place on 27th March 2018.”
In their statement, NEW urges “all political party leaders to respect the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance as stated in section 1: article 1 (b) Every ascension to power must be made through free, fair and transparent elections; and (c) Zero tolerance for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means.”
“As we move to another critical stage of the electoral process; the Presidential Run- off, NEW reminds all and sundry that though there are issues to address in view of the conduct of the Presidential Run-off, it is incumbent that all stakeholders restraint themselves and dialogue their way to a successful conclusion of the electoral process,” NEW warns political parties.
Responding to NEW’s statement, the SLPP Media, Information and Communications Committee is today accusing NEW of making baseless accusations and finger pointing at the SLPP, in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of their presidential candidate. This is SLPP’s published statement:
“Our attention has been drawn to a Press Statement issued by the National Election Watch dated 27th March 2018 titled “NEW condemns inflammatory statements from political leaders” in which NEW described as “inflammatory” statements made by the Presidential Candidate of the Sierra Leone People’s Party while responding to the Party’s position on the recent interim injunction.
“It is regrettable that NEW was not in attendance at the Press Conference nor the Meeting with elections observers convened at the Radisson Blu on Sunday 26th March 2018. Clearly, from the NEW statement they failed to specifically mention which aspect of the “recent statements” was inflammatory.
“Such a blanket description by NEW without any specificity is a misrepresentation and has the potential to undermine its impartiality as elections observers.
“It is unacceptable that NEW has made public allegation of ‘inflammatory statements’ by the SLPP Presidential Candidate Brigadier (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio without evidence and facts to substantiate this allegation in their statement.
“We view this as an attempt by NEW to tarnish the reputation of the SLPP Presidential Candidate, Brig (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio in the run-up to the Presidential Run-Off scheduled for Saturday, 31st March 2018.
“The Press Statement delivered by Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio and his subsequent responses to questions from members of the press on Sunday 25th March were robust, strong and reflected the views of many Sierra Leoneans.
“Throughout the electoral process, Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio has won the admiration of both local and international observers, members of the diplomatic community and the general public for showing restraint in the face of provocations and attacks.
“Furthermore, he has been commended by all for his statesmanship and the responsible manner he has conducted himself to safeguard our nation’s peace and democracy.
“We wish to reiterate that where there are emerging issues that threaten to undermine the electoral process and democratic consolidation, Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio will respond robustly and strongly. We condemn all forms of inflammatory statements, but we will also robustly protect our democracy.”
The runoff election between the ruling APC and the SLPP will take place on Saturday, 31 March 2018, after a High Court Judge postponed the election that was scheduled for yesterday – Tuesday, 27 March, due to allegations of serious electoral fraud and malpractice.
There are calls for the National Electoral Commission to ensure that Saturday’s runoff election is credible and held in accordance with the Public Elections Act of 2012. This is what the Awareness Times says in its editorial today:
“NEC is not above the Constitution. Sections 32 and 33 of Sierra Leone Constitution creates the National Electoral Commission (NEC) which is responsible for all public elections in Sierra Leone.
“Section 44 of the Constitution says Parliament shall make laws for the purpose of regulating the election of the President and other matters connected therewith. The current law made by Parliament for electing a President is the Public Elections Act of 2012.
“NEC is therefore constitutionally bound to follow the dictates of that Public Elections Act when conducting elections for President.
“The Public Elections Act in Sections 91(3) and 94(2), states unequivocally that tallying of elections results should commence AT THE OFFICE of the District Returning Officer and then those district results are certified again AT THE OFFICE of the District Returning Officer. The geographical location of where tallying & certification of polling station results should commence, is very clear.
“Any attempt by NEC to commence tallying in regional offices will be in breach of the Public Elections Act and by extension, Section 44 of the Constitution.
“Many citizens now know why and how the First Rounds of March 7th 2018 turned out to be what they turned out to be. Sierra Leone deserves better, so this newspaper is hopeful that NEC will henceforth do what the Constitution dictates and which is what the High Court’s Hon. Justice Mansaray has ordered should be followed as per law established.
“That means, NEC should tally polling station results at NEC district offices and not at their regional offices! After all, NEC is not above the Constitution.”
Many in Sierra Leone are calling for the replacement of the NEC Chairman and Commissioner – Mohamed Nfa Alie Conteh, after failing to ensure that the first round elections are fair and credible. All eyes are now on NEC and its conduct of the runoff election on Saturday, 31 March. Will it regain its lost credibility, or make itself unfit for purpose?