Author: Trevor Jenkins-Johnston: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 April 2018:
I do not believe there has been an election like this in the history of Sierra Leone. It has been replete with drama – a complete roller-coaster of a civic event.
Most importantly, it appears to have been largely peaceful. And I hope this trend continues throughout the transition of power and formation of a new government.
So, where are we now with the result?
An official announcement of the result by NEC is expected tonight. But it appears the election is over. All the stamped and signed district certificates have been collated and we have a clear winner. Let us all get used to saying President Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. Congratulations Sir!
An indisputable lead for the SLPP of approximately 92,000 votes; with a 3.6% margin and a fantastic valid voter turnout of 80%, something not considered usual for run-off elections.
How was the run-off election won? Several factors may have accounted for this. But I will highlight just five:
The SLPP energised their voters in the South and East, getting as much as 87% in Bonthe (a 3% increase on round 1 or R1), and maintaining or increasing their turnout in the majority of their other strongholds (Kenema, Bo & Moyamba).
Conversely, there was sluggish performance for the APC in Falaba, Koinadugu, Tonkolili, Kambia and the Western Area.
Increased voter education
The number of invalid votes dropped from 139,427 in R1 to 31,694 in R2.
Greatly reduced incidences of over-voting and the corollary poll station cancellations
So far there have not been any announcements of cancelled stations and it does not appear there will be many, if any.
A series of calamitous mistakes by the ruling party
There are too many to list here, but the highlights would be the Kono / Sam Sumana saga, the Kandeh Yumkella court case and subsequent attempts to court his endorsement and voters (e.g. photo of President Ernest Koroma with Kandeh Yumkella’s mum), and the restricted vehicular movements on polling day.
The above led to reduced turnouts and a significant shift in votes from APC to SLPP in Falaba, Karene, Koinadugu, Tonkolili, Kambia, Kono and the Western Area.
Voter anger and empathy
Attempts by the ruling party to prolong the electoral process through the courts and several complaints to NEC; impacting school children, economic activities and the lives of ordinary citizens, translated into votes against the APC.
Appearing to bully both the SLPP and the NEC at various junctures generated a lot of empathy from the voters.
There are several lessons both parties can learn from this experience, but I am sure the one that will make a lasting impact is: never underestimate the electorate – for they are your employers; and they will get the chance periodically to hire, re-hire and fire you.
You can see the table below showing the unofficial result of the 2018 election runoff – based on all actual districts results declared:
About the author
Trevor Jenkins-Johnston is the Managing Director of Smartcloud Accountants