Trevor Jenkins-Johnston: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 March 2018:
Its red letter day today for Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), after announcing last night that it could not declare the final 25% results, due to serious irregularities discovered in several polling stations, in addition to the 83 stations where malpractice was found two days ago.
Tension is rising across the country, as the two main parties – APC and SLPP continue to make claims and counter claims as to who has won the elections.
But despite all predictions pointing to a run-off, quite a few audio clips and messages have been doing the rounds on social media over the last day or so, suggesting there will not be a run-off election.
They say that one of the top two parties has already crossed the 55% line needed to form a government.
Now, whilst this is not possible at this 75% juncture, in a normal situation (normal being where there are no challenges or instances of electoral fraud), there is a scenario where one party can cross the 55% line at the final announcement scheduled for today.
The assumption is that the results we have so far at the 75% mark, contain numbers from polling stations that are subject to challenges or electoral fraud
If this is the case, invoking Section 87 of The Public Elections Act 2012, will mean that all the votes of these polling stations will be declared null and void, but at the discretion of NEC, subject to another election, if the impact is significant on the election.
Specific to this scenario, to have an impact on the election, 2,000 polling stations in constituencies affecting mostly one party, would provide the relevant number of ballots to be discounted from current totals.
Let us take an example: Party Y is challenging polling stations mostly in Party X’s constituencies. NEC investigates and discovers 2,000 polling stations with over-voting. Up to 600,000 votes are now rendered null and void. Party X totals are reduced by say 500,000 at the final announcement. Other parties will also have their numbers reduced accordingly but the impact will be less. Party X picks up 280,000 from the final 25% of results. But this has no impact, as 500,000 is removed simultaneously.
Party Y then goes on to collect a further 280,000 votes at the final announcement. The gap between the two parties is now 500,000 and more importantly, the threshold for 55% is now lower as all invalid votes are excluded from the calculation.
Party Y wins the election with 56.7% and no runoff is required, as this table explains:
|Incremental votes from final announcement
|Less Void votes
|Less Void votes
|New threshold @ 55% of valid votes
|Party Y wins (Final Total/ Valid votes)
Now, bear in mind that Section 87, subsection 2 of The Public Elections Act 2012, gives NEC the power to call for another election if the impact of polling nullification affects the outcome of the election. If this scenario does turn out to be true, what will the NEC do?
Mr. Trevor Jenkins-Johnston is the Managing Director of Smartcloud.Accountants, UK.