Sierra Leone’s Election runoff set for Saturday March 31st

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Rounds of dramas bedeviled the second elections in Sierra Leone. Lawyers that are members of the All People’s Congress initiated a swathe of legal issues pointing irregularities in the March 7 polls.

Justice Abdurahman Mansaray, the presiding Judge earlier refused to grant a ruling in the plaintiff’s application for an ex-parte to be granted in a court motion demanding forensic audit of poll counts and an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants; specifically, the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Nfa Alie Conteh and the National Electoral Commission, from further announcing or publishing presidential, parliamentary or local council elections results as conducted in the March 7 national polls.

After the National Electoral Commission challenged the High Court that the powers to preside over constitutional matters dealing with presidential elections lies only with the Supreme Court, the High Court Judge placed an injunction on the conduct of the runoff elections scheduled for March 27, 2018 on Saturday barely two days to the slated runoff. In the final analysis, the Supreme Court ruled that the High Court has the locus standi to preside over the said matter before the court.

Monday, the big day, everybody was apprehensive as to whether or not the interim injunction stands. The apprehension was hatched in fear that the scheduled runoff was to be put on hold indefinitely. Justice Mansaray started by vacating the said injunction and the court room was beaming in joy. Members of the public breathed in a sigh of relief as the country would soon get over the elections and return to normal daily life.

Justice Mansaray did not grant the order prayed for a forensic audit of the entire ballot casts on the March 7 polls but granted the following prayed for:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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-:

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;

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;

That political parties’ accredited agents monitor the transportation and transfer of all Sensitive Polling Materials;

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;

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;

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;

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;

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;

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.

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;

That in the event of void ballots been identified that such ballots be counted and the total number published together with the results.

Any other or further Order(s) that this Honourable Court may deem fit and just in the circumstances.

The National Electoral Commission is now working on the date the Supreme Court granted a maximum 4 days to the original schedule.

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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: abstarawally@gmail.com. Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.

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