March 15, 2018 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Presidential candidates of major political parties that contested the just concluded March 7 presidential election have highlighted several issues pertaining to the conduct of the poll.
Over three million people registered to vote but only a little over two and half million people turned out to pick a new president among sixteen presidential aspirants, with President Ernest Bai Koroma set to leave office after completing two consecutive terms.
But the elections resulted to a run-off slated for March 27 between 54-year-old former head of state and military leader, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and 67-year-old erstwhile Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress party.
But neither of the candidates was able to secure the 55% required to clinch the presidency in the first round.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bio, who pulled 43.3% of valid votes, yesterday said on Radio Democracy’s 98.1 ‘Gud Morning Salone’ programme that they have ‘few’ issues with the result that NEC announced on Tuesday, adding that they are compiling the inadequacies and shortcomings in the election and its significance to the polls.
“Our plan was to win the election on the first ballot but, as I say we have accepted the result, albeit a few concerns which we are putting together and present to NEC as soon as possible. This is not what we were expecting because the response from our people from the south, east, north and west is enough to win the election on first go, but since there were a lot of intimidations, violence and vote rigging, that didn’t happen,” he said.
He noted that the SLPP doesn’t have any hostile relationship with the other parties, which he said would make it very easier to engage them for the run-off.
He called on NEC to take strategic action in ensuring that the re-run of the presidential election is credible and give everyone a level playing field, especially on election day.
Dr. Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress, who secured 42.7%, noted securing a run-off position was an ‘achievement’ although that was not their expectations as they had anticipated winning the election on the first ballot.
He said the outcome of the result does not march the crowd they pulled during their rallies across the country.
“The APC cannot give fake promises to the people. They already know what we have done for this country. Let them vote us based on our report card. Any Sierra Leonean that is not blind to development has seen what we have done, vote APC, vote for development,” he said.
On his part, Alhaji Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana of the Coalition for Change told Radio Democracy that his party’s expectations for free, fair and credible elections were not met.
“There were a lot of armed military personnel on the streets which scared people away, especially those in the provinces, from voting. All of us know that this is a traumatised nation from the civil war. The presence of military men created unnecessary panic for our people. Transparency and accountability of the process was flawed,” he said.
Chief Sam-Sumana, who secured 3.5% of the total valid votes cast, said those anomalies were reported to NEC and that they demanded a recount, but the commission didn’t adhere to their demands.
“The polling station where my family, relatives and staff voted, I got 01 in that particular centre, so is that credible? We are putting our papers together to follow the due process for the peace of this country,” he said.
In addition, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, who pulled 1.1% of the total valid votes cast, said he felt disappointed in the voter turnout but thanked Sierra Leoneans, especially the 26,704 that voted for him.
He said by next Friday he would publicly declare support for one of the two parties that would lock horns in the run-off.
“I will go all over the country to tell my supporters why I took that decision. And also call on those registered voters that didn’t vote to come out and vote. Voting for a party does not mean I will not serve as an opposition when they are in governance. People need to understand that. If I stay off, then am not patriotic,” he the Manasaray, who was also presidential aspirant for the Alliance Democratic Party.