Inconsistencies flagged in official results released by Sierra Leone’s Electoral Commission
Sierra Leone independent election watchdog – the National Election Watch (NEW) is flagging significant inconsistencies in the turnout and vote shares between the presidential and parliamentary election in multiple districts in the official results released by the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL).
The statement issued by NEW on July 5, 2023, explains that based on analysis of data from the Process and Results Verification for Transparency (PVRT), the official results announced for the presidential election do not align with the true ballots cast at polling stations. NEW reiterates its call for ECSL to release all polling station level results to increase transparency and allow for further independent analysis.
PRVT is an advanced and proven election monitoring methodology used by citizen election observation groups around the world that allows for the independent and impartial assessment of the quality of election day processes and the official results.
A critical analysis of district turnout rates reveals variations in voter turnout for presidential and parliamentary elections within districts, even when both elections were conducted on the same day.
NEW highlights that in 4 districts in the North (Falaba) and South (Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba), voter turnout was significantly lower in the parliamentary election as compared to the presidential. Specifically, in Falaba turnout was 23.8% lower for parliamentary), in Bo turnout 13.7% lower, in bo Bonthe it was 15.4% lower, and in Moyamba, turnout was 17.1% lower. Secrets Known has established that North and South regions are strongholds of the incumbent SLPP party.
The statements further highlights that there were 47,200 (13.8%) more voters in Western Area Rural and 78,805 (13.2%) more voters in Western Area Urban that cast ballots in the parliamentary election but not for the presidential. Secrets Known has established that western region is the stronghold for the opposition APC party.
The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone is stating in other words that there were many voters who entered the polling and voted only for parliamentary candidate and did not vote for the president. Yet, Secrets Known has learned that the procedure was such that when voters entered the polling unit, they were first given a presidential ballot paper which they had to cast before going on to the next table to get the parliamentary ballot.
Going by this finding, it means that many voters entered the polling unit, obtained presidential ballots but did not drop them into the ballot box, yet went on to obtain the parliamentary ballot which is the only one they dropped into the ballot box with the presiding officer watching and treating it as a normal case.
Secrets Known has established that there were no incidents where a voter was caught going out of the polling station with a presidential ballot paper. And there were also no cases reported where a voter entered the polling unit and declined to be given the presidential ballot. This matter begs further clarification from ECSL.
In terms of vote shares, the statement issued by NEW again flags inconsistencies whereby some districts showed large differences in voting patterns between the presidential and parliamentary elections.
For example, in Falaba, the opposition All Peoples Congress Party (APC) received a significantly higher percentage of the vote share in the parliamentary election (43%) as compared to the presidential (27%). Conversely, the incumbent Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) received a lower vote share in parliamentary election (51%) as compared to the presidential election (67%). What explains this inconsistency?
In Karene and Port Loko, APC received a significantly lower percentage of the vote in the parliamentary election (72% and 60%, respectively) as compared to the presidential election (84% and 80%, respectively). Conversely, SLPP received a higher percentage of the vote in the parliamentary election (26% and 36%, respectively), as compared to the presidential election.
On June 27, 2023, National Election watch (NEW) released a statement on non-partisan assessment of the presidential results which projected that no candidate should have met the constitutional threshold of 55% to avoid a runoff. This statement drew acerbic criticisms from supporters and apologists of the incumbent presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio. Bio was immediately declared winner of the election and immediately sworn in for his second term in office. The elections were held on June 24, 2023.