Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 March 2018:
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone has today accepted a proposal from the National Electoral Commission, for voters to go to the polls on Saturday, 31 March 2018 to elect their president.
This Supreme Court endorsement comes after a High Court Judge earlier this afternoon rescinded his decision made last Saturday, ordering an injunction on preparations for presidential election that was scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday, 27 March 2018.
(Video below showing SLPP supporters in Freetown demanding for the election runoff to go ahead as scheduled tomorrow).
Today there are calls for the head of the National Electoral Commission – Mr Mohamed Nfa Alie Conteh to be sacked or resign. His credibility and that of the Electoral Commission they say have been seriously damaged by allegations of serious electoral fraud and mismanagement, which are yet to be investigated.
But the court has today refused to grant a total recount of all votes cast on the 7th of March, leaving serious questions unanswered about the legitimacy of the runoff election to be held on Saturday.
(Video below showing women in Freetown caling for the sacking of the Chief Electoral Commissioner)
Reactions to the lifting of the injunction are mixed. Supporters of the ruling APC regard today’s High Court ruling which includes an order requiring NEC to ensure that all votes cast at polling stations on Saturday are counted and recorded manually, before they are collated at district level for aggregation and inputted to the national computer database, as victory for the ruling APC member who brought the court action.
But the opposition SLPP see this as a retrograde step and an attempt by the ruling APC to corrupt the democratic will of the people.
Although today’s High Court ruling has been declared a victory for the ruling party plaintiff by their supporters, claiming that the court has granted nine out of the ten orders sought, A commentator says that: “The plaintiff did not get what he had wanted, and the judge made a big mistake in granting him orders he asked for even without a re-count of the votes,” and makes the following assessment:
1.An order directing the Auditor-General and or any other competent/qualified Persons/Firm appointed by this Honourable Court within 7 days from the date of the Order to conduct a forensic audit on the internal systems of the 1st and 2nd Defendants, and the entire electioneering system conducted by the 1st and 2nd Defendants on 7th March 2018, and to prepare a report and make recommendations therefrom within 14 days of such recruitment. NOT GRANTED
2. An order directing the 1st and 2nd Defendants to manually recount all elections results including all cancelled over voting ballots and voided ballots emanating from the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections as conducted on the 7th March, 2018, throughout the Republic of Sierra Leone in accordance with the Public Elections Act No. 4 of 2012. NOT GRANTED
3. An order directing the Defendants especially the 1st and 2nd Defendants to produce all Reconciliation Result Forms (RRF) taken and recorded against all votes cast in each Ward, Constituency, District and Region in the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council Elections as conducted on the 7th March, 2018 together with the full list of all polling managers/officers in each polling station. Not GRANTED
4. An order directing the Defendants to produce evidence of all registrants in each polling station, constituencies, Districts and the list of actual voters at the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections as conducted on the 7th March, 2018.5. An interim injunction restraining the Defendants in particular the 1st and 2nd Defendants from further announcing Presidential, Parliamentary or Local Council Elections results as conducted throughout the Republic of Sierra Leone on 7th March, 2018 pending the hearing and determination of this application. NOT GRANTED
5. An interlocutory injunction restraining the Defendants in particular the 1st and 2nd Defendants from further announcing or publishing Presidential, Parliamentary or Local Council Elections results as conducted throughout the Republic of Sierra Leone on the 7th March, 2018 pending the hearing and determination of this action. NOT GRANTED
6. An interim injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd Defendants from conducting the Presidential Election scheduled for March 27th 2018 pending the hearing and determination of this application. VACATED
7. An interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd Defendants from conducting the Presidential Election scheduled for March 27th 2018 pending the hearing and determination of this action. That in the event a recount is ordered as prayed for in paragraph three (3) above and it results to a run-off election, that this Honourable Court makes the following further Orders-: NO RECOUNT ORDERED
A. That NEC should ensure that both Political Parties’ agents are given Tamper Evidence Envelop (TEE) containing signed copies of election results at each Polling Station across the country; GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
B. That the results from the Districts and/or Regions be manually transferred to the NEC National Tally Centre and/or Headquarters in a transparent and all-inclusive manner; GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
C. That political parties’ accredited agents monitor the transportation and transfer of all Sensitive Polling Materials; GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
D. That a review of staff in critical areas of the process including in-putters, reviewers and tally centre managers be conducted to enhance the credibility of the system; NOT GRANTED
E. That all registered persons with some form of identification, whether with the NEC identification, voter Slip or National Identity Card shall be allowed to vote in the run-off; GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
F. That at the close of polling at every Centre, counting must be manually done in the presence of Security Forces and Political Party representatives, who must verify in writing that the process was transparent; PARTIALLY GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
G. That all Ballot Boxes containing the counted ballots must be sealed in the presence of both Political party’s agents and returned to NEC Headquarters, accompanied by security personnel’s; GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
H. That all elections result must be published at each Polling Stations immediately after the counting of ballots and the published results must be signed by Political Party representatives present during voting; GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
I. That all Political Party’ Agents, Security Personnel and Elections Official working at a particular station on the day of elections shall have the rights to cast their votes at that particular Station; further, to the above, that NEC Staff and Security Personnel’s be made to vote in separate ballot boxes in order to avoid the issue of over-voting in that particular station. GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
J. That the 2nd Defendant be directed to send a full list of the Ballot boxes and the serial numbers of their tags to each Political Parties prior to election; GRANTED THOUGH NO RECOUNT DONE
K. That in the event of void ballots been identified that such ballots be counted and the total number published together with the results. NOT GRANTED
9. Any other or further Order(s) that this Honourable Court may deem fit and just in the circumstances.
10. That the costs of the action be costs in the Cause.”
See today’s High Court ruling and listen to the verdict below: