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Carter Center Welcomes Announcement of Presidential Results, Calls on Parties and Candidates to Respect the Will of the People
On Nov. 23, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), certified the final results of the presidential election, which indicated that President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress (APC) was re-elected with 58.7 percent of the valid votes, ahead of his main challenger, Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), who garnered 37.4 percent of valid ballots cast. Over 87 percent of registered voters turned out to vote.
The tabulation of final results for parliamentary, mayor/district chairperson, and local council elections continues, and The Carter Center urges continued calm as the NEC tabulates results for those remaining elections.
H.E. Rupiah Banda, former Zambian president and co-leader of the Carter Center's delegation, said, "Following the announcement of presidential election results, I urge all parties, candidates, and citizens to respect the voice of Sierra Leone's people. These elections represent a critical milestone on Sierra Leone's transition from conflict to peace. Respect for the outcome of the democratic process is an essential foundation for the consolidation of democracy in Sierra Leone." After this hard fought campaign, The Carter Center calls on the two leading candidates to seek ways to cooperate for the good of the nation.
In a press conference on Nov. 22, the APC, the SLPP, and others pledged to promote peace and refrain from violence during the post-electoral period, due to concerns about heightened tensions. The Center commends this recommitment to peace and urges all parties, especially the APC and SLPP, to take steps to ensure that their supporters abide by these pledges.
In the event of any challenges or complaints, the Center urges parties and candidates to follow prescribed legal channels as laid down in the Constitution and the Public Elections Act of 2012 for the resolution of any dispute related to the elections. Under the Public Elections Act, any electoral offences will be considered by the Electoral Offences Court and investigated by the Sierra Leone Police, and any challenge to the results of the presidential election should be filed with the Supreme Court within seven days of the official announcement of the results. It is incumbent on political parties and candidates to produce evidence of any alleged malfeasance.
Carter Center Observation. Carter Center short-term observers observed the tally process at District and Regional Rally Centers after the closing of the polls on election day and the day following. The Center's long-term observers continue to observe the tabulation and post-election processes at the regional level as well as a number of District Tally Centers.
One of Sierra Leone's core obligations concerns promoting transparency in elections and other public processes. In order to ensure such transparency, accepted best practice is for ballot tallies to be transmitted openly and transparently, and the results should be published in a timely manner, including at the polling station level. Based on their observations to date, Carter Center observers report that the tabulations and results processes to date have met these obligations. It is commendable that copies of polling station results were made available to political party agents, that polling station and center results have been posted outside of each polling center, and that results by polling station are made available at Regional Tally Centers. As an element of transparency and in accordance with best practice, the NEC should make official results available by polling station on its website to enable political parties to cross-check their data, building confidence in the tabulation process and results.
Carter Center observers report that Regional Tally Centers are calm and well organized. The process so far has been conducted in an atmosphere of transparency with a strong security presence as well as presence of political party agents, primarily from the APC and SLPP, international observers, and citizen observers from the National Election Watch (NEW). NEW monitors were reported in all Regional Tally Centers, as well as a majority of the District Tally Centers visited.
Carter Center observers reported that Regional Tally Center personnel, including managers, data entry clerks, and observer facilitators, fulfilled their responsibilities with professionalism and were receptive to observers' inquiries about the vote tabulation. Carter Center observers as well as political party agents and citizen observers have had full access to each tally center's database and were able to obtain updates on the number of results forms being reviewed, archived, or quarantined on a daily basis.
While it is difficult to confirm, it appears that there have been only a few complaints filed regarding the post-election tabulation and results processes. During the earlier stages of voting and counting, Carter Center observers did not report any complaints filed at the polling stations they visited.
Overall, only a few polling station results were quarantined during the reviews at the NEC's Regional Tally Centers. By mid-day on Nov. 23, only 114 results forms (or a little over one percent of all forms) were quarantined for the presidential race. In most cases this was due to administrative or procedural problems which were eventually resolved, such as the appropriate copy of results forms being placed in the wrong tamper evidence envelope (TEE) or mathematical errors.
Carter Center observers reported that recounts were scheduled to be conducted of presidential results from about 170 polling stations in Kono, Bombali, Tonkolili, Moyamba, Pujehun, Western Urban, and Western Rural districts. Of these, most were due to missing or incomplete data. Carter Center observers witnessed 20 of these recounts in Bombali, Tonkolili, Western Urban, and Western Rural districts. It is important to note that, according to the NEC Chair, the number of votes involved in these quarantined cases was not large enough to affect the outcome of the presidential election.
In a small number of cases, polling station results were quarantined due to a higher number of valid votes than registered voters at that polling station. However, in most cases this was resolved and determined to be a result of voting by police officers or other authorized voters who were not on the voter list for that polling station, but whose names were added on election day to the Additions to Final Voters' Register Form at the polling station where they worked. Only four cases of over-voting were identified, and in these cases, results were annulled by the NEC in accordance with the Public Elections Act.
Background on Carter Center election observation mission in Sierra Leone. The Carter Center launched its election observation mission in September and observed the Nov. 17 elections in all 14 districts. Carter Center observers will remain in Sierra Leone until late December to observe the remainder of the tabulation process for the parliamentary, mayor/district chairperson, and local government elections and to report on the post-electoral environment.
The Carter Center assesses Sierra Leone's elections against its obligations for democratic elections contained in the Constitution, the Electoral Act, and other relevant parts of the legal framework, as well as its obligations under international law. The Carter Center conducts its election observation activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which was adopted at the United Nations in 2005.
1 UN, United Nations Convention against Corruption, art. 13(a); AU, African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption ,art. 3(3)
2 CoE, Handbook for Observers of Elections, para. 4.6. EISA and Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC, PEMMO, p. 26
3 Center LTOs have investigated some allegations of over-voting, including review of results posted outside of polling stations, and to date have found no evidence to support these claims.