Sierra Leone presidential runoff in doubt after court rulling

Sierra Leone presidential runoff in doubt after court rulling

Today’s planned presidential runoff election has been halted by Sierra Leone’s High Court after lawyers connected to the ruling African

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Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

Today’s planned presidential runoff election has been halted by Sierra Leone’s High Court after lawyers connected to the ruling African Congress of the People (ACP) filed for an injunction claiming electoral fraud.

No candidate reached the required 55% winning threshold in the March 7 first-round vote but the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP) Julius Maada Bio was marginally ahead of former foreign minister and ACP candidate, Samura Kamara. The injunction has been denounced by Bio, a former coup and junta leader in 1996, alleging the Court order is a ploy by outgoing president Ernest Koroma to hang onto power.

The runoff election is supposed to occur within 14 days of the first-round. However, there is no confirmation of how long the investigations of electoral fraud will take, an uncertainty risking further electoral violence.

The electoral paralysis is a test of the post-civil war political process in a region where peaceful transfers of power are problematic. While the 2007 and 2012 election results were accepted, the court decision risks fracturing Sierra Leone’s fragile democracy. Expect the SLPP to challenge the court over the next week. If the Court prevaricates, expect further electoral conflict to breakout.

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