Sierra Leone’s Electoral Management Body running out of time to save face
Over a month after Sierra Leonians went to the polls on 24th June 2023 to cast their votes, the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) is yet to post the official results. The election was won by President Julius Maada Bio by a narrow margin of 56.17 % defeating main rival Samura Kamara of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) who polled 41.16 %. Election Observers have since cited glaring irregularities and statistical inconsistencies in the official results. Calls by the international community, citizen election observer groups and the opposition APC for ECSL to publish all disaggregated polling station results and prove the victory of President Bio and his ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) largely remain futile to date.
The secret known is that ESCL’s difficulty in proving the results they based on to declare President Bio the winner and ensure he is hurriedly sworn in is mainly because the results are inconsistent with variations in voter turnout for presidential and parliamentary elections within districts, even when both elections were conducted on the same day.
ECSL ‘s actions of not publishing the results only serve to confirm that the electoral management body is puppeteering the interests of President Julius Maada Bio. Amidst calls from citizen election observers, civil society and international election observer missions to transparently and openly share the official election results, ECSL is instead locking horns with the same actors calling it to order to account.
It is understood that the ECSL is considering taking legal action against National Election Watch (NEW), the biggest election observation civil society outfit in Sierra Leone. Secrets Known also confirms that ECSL wants to revoke their Memorandum of Understanding with NEW.
The same Election Management Body is alleged to have received $1million from ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), the umbrella body of West African Election Management Bodies (EMBs) and sub granted Election Observers Network of Sierra Leone (EON-SL), a civil society that was formed in late 2022 less than a year to the elections. It is the same network that benefited from the grant that has since been defending the contested election results and casting NEW in bad light. The secret known is that EON-SL was formed to counter the power of NEW and be the mouth piece for ECSL in face of criticism for their lack of transparency and accountability. Indeed, the criticism is mounting and no plausible explanation can be given for failure to post all the official results of an election that took place almost two months back.
It remains to be seen how Bio’s Electoral Commission handles the pressure to release and post all the official results for public scrutiny. The longer they take, the uglier it becomes and the more questionable Bio’s victory becomes.