Liberia’s Shadow in S/Leone – Ruling Party Cries Foul

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Still reeling in the pain of its shock defeat in the first round of this month’s presidential election, Sierra Leone’s governing party has accused the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of conniving with foreign forces to push for regime change.
The All People’s Congress (APC) party has subsequently made several demands it wants met before the presidential run-off slated for March 27.

The APC’s candidate, Dr Samura Kamara, will face off with the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio, in the second round after both failed to secure the constitutional threshold of 55 per cent in the first round.
Brig Bio emerged on top with 43 per cent of the votes cast, ahead of Dr Kamara’s 42 per cent. There were 14 other candidates.

APC Secretary-General Osman Foday Yansaneh, told journalists and international observers at a press conference in Freetown that they had enough evidence to prove that that NEC had been compromised, and could not guarantee a free, fair and transparent poll. He claimed there were widespread irregularities, including ballot stuffing to deny the incumbent party a first round win.
He added that in spite of the many concerns raised by the party, NEC neither acknowledged nor took any action and instead went ahead to announce the final results.
“It is therefore abundantly clear that the Commission woefully failed to execute its constitutional remit in a manner befitting a democratic Sierra Leone,” Mr Yansaneh said.
Piling pressure

He alleged that international observers, with the intention of ensuring regime change, were also piling pressure on NEC to announce the results even without addressing the party’s concerns.
“Our people are anxious, but it would appear that some people from without are more anxious for the announcement of the results that undue pressure was exerted on the NEC,” he said.

The APC secretary-general noted that because of the apparent interference by foreign forces, they had decided to control which international observers had access to tallying centers in the run-off.
APC also demanded that NEC conducts a forensic audit of the March 7 vote before the run-off.
Spike in violence

The party also wants to see a series of reforms within the commission, including a review of its staff in key positions who they alleged helped manipulate the results in favour of the opposition.
The ruling party will also want results from the regions be transferred manually to the national tally centre, instead of being transmitted electronically. APC officials were pushing for the police and military to supervise such a process.
The two parties were currently jostling for support among the smaller parties. But the last few days have witnessed a spike in violence, fuelled by ethnic tensions.