Carter Center Issues Expert Mission Report on Sierra Leone’s March 7 Elections

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ATLANTA — A Carter Center report issued today by its expert electoral mission for the March 7 general elections in Sierra Leone urges the two main parties to support a peaceful and genuine process for the runoff scheduled for March 27. 

The runoff election presents a key test of whether the 2018 electoral process will be an important step forward in the country’s post-civil war history, the report said. This will require that a relatively peaceful environment be maintained throughout voting, the counting and reconciliation of ballots, and the announcement of credible final results, and that any disputes be resolved through established legal channels, the Center said.

Since no presidential candidate in the March 7 general elections received the 55 percent of votes required to avoid a second round, a runoff was scheduled between the candidates representing the two leading parties: All Peoples Congress (APC) and Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP).

Several violent incidents in the final days of the campaign raised concerns, and certain actions by the Sierra Leone police, including the failure to investigate campaign incidents and a police raid of an opposition campaign headquarters on election day, also were troubling.

Following the polls, Sierra Leonean police have been investigating allegations of election offenses, and have sought to question several members of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) staff. The NEC issued a statement March 21 calling for the police not to interfere with its operations or intimidate electoral officials. The Center recognizes the essential roles played by the both the NEC and the police, and urges all stakeholders to conduct their roles as laid out in the legal framework and in a transparent and non-partisan manner.

While claims of electoral irregularities in the first round have been raised by various parties, and a petition seeking injunctive relief has been filed with the Supreme Court, The Carter Center team is not aware of any concrete evidence that would call into question the results of the March 7 elections.

Overall, the report concludes that Sierra Leone’s March 7 elections – the first organized since the end of the civil war in 2002 absent the presence of a United Nations peace mission - were conducted under a legal framework generally consistent with international standards. It also notes that domestic citizen observers and international observers found that the campaign period was generally calm and allowed parties to mobilize supporters and communicate with the public, and that the elections were professionally administered by the NEC. The commission played a key role by preparing a new civil registry and revising constituency boundaries prior to the election.

Background: This report is based on the findings of a Carter Center expert mission, deployed to Sierra Leone in February 2018 to monitor key parts of Sierra Leone’s 2018 electoral process, including the legal framework, electoral preparations, the general security environment, and the resolution of disputes in the courts. Given the limited size and scope of the mission, the Center’s team did not conduct a comprehensive observation of the electoral process as whole, nor of election day voting and counting processes. Due to its limited size and focus, the Center’s mission did not issue a preliminary post-election statement. This report focuses on discrete aspects of the electoral process assessed by the expert team, with additional analyses that draw on reports from other international and domestic observation missions. The Center conducts its election missions in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which was endorsed by the United Nations in 2005.


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A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.