Elephant in the room: Need for urgent adherence to transparent electoral processes in Sierra Leone

Sylvanus Fornah Koroma (what a man!): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 April 2024:

In Sierra Leone’s current political landscape, the presence of a proverbial “elephant in the room” cannot be ignored.

This figurative elephant represents the critical issue of the persistent refusal of the country’s electoral commission to publish the results of the 2023 general and presidential elections, a matter that strikes at the core of democratic principles and transparency in governance.

The constitutional and statutory framework governing elections in Sierra Leone provides clear mandates and guidelines that must be adhered to for a fair and credible electoral process.

The Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991, in its Section 32 Subsection (11), unequivocally states that the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority in exercising its functions. This provision underscores the independence and autonomy of the Electoral Commission in carrying out its duties, including the crucial task of publishing election results.

Additionally, Section 42 Subsection (2) paragraphs (e) & (f) of the Constitution outline the procedures for presidential elections, emphasizing the importance of a candidate securing not less than fifty-five percent of the valid votes or proceeding to a second election within fourteen days if no candidate meets the threshold. These provisions are fundamental to the democratic process and must be upheld to ensure the integrity of election outcomes.

In tandem with the constitutional framework, the Public Elections Act, 2022 (PEA, 2022), provides further clarity on electoral procedures and responsibilities. Section 3 of the PEA, 2022, emphasizes the independence of the Electoral Commission, reinforcing the Commission’s authority and obligation to conduct elections transparently and impartially.

Of particular relevance are Sections 51, 52, and 93 of the PEA, 2022, which address the declaration, certification, and publication of election results.

Section 51 mandates Presiding Officers to certify and transmit election results promptly, while Section 52 tasks the National Returning Officer with issuing certificates of election and publishing results in the Gazette and other suitable platforms.

Section 93 further specifies the timeline for publishing election results after their declaration.

It is crucial to note that there exists no provision in Sierra Leone’s electoral laws that prohibits the publication of election results by the Electoral Commission. On the contrary, specific laws, such as Section 52 paragraph (b) of the PEA, 2022, explicitly require the Commission to publish results promptly following their declaration.

The failure to adhere to these legal obligations regarding the publication of election results creates a significant “elephant in the room” scenario. This failure not only undermines public trust and confidence in the electoral process but also raises questions about the legitimacy and credibility of election outcomes.

Moreover, the delay or non-publication of election results beyond the mandated timelines, as stipulated in Section 42 Subsection (2) paragraphs (e) & (f) of the Constitution, has serious implications. It calls into question the adherence to constitutional provisions regarding the conduct of second elections within fourteen days if no candidate achieves the required threshold.

The ramifications of this “elephant in the room” extend beyond mere procedural matters. They touch on the very foundation of democracy, the rule of law, and the peaceful transfer of power.

Failure to address this critical issue promptly may lead to heightened political tensions, legal challenges, and even the potential need for interim governance arrangements.

In conclusion, the imperative to address the “elephant in the room” – the non-publication of election results, in Sierra Leone’s electoral context cannot be overstated.

Upholding the principles of transparency, accountability, and adherence to legal frameworks is essential for fostering trust in democratic processes and ensuring the stability and legitimacy of government institutions.

It is time to bring this critical issue out of the shadows and into the light of transparent and responsible governance.


1 Comment

  1. Realistically, the Rule of Law continues to be defunct in Sierra Leone for some years now; similarly, strict compliance with GO(General Orders) and transparent accountability. These are some of the root causes of some of our problems.

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