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Sierra Leone Opposition Threatens Post-Election Boycott

Supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) march through central Freetown with a placard of presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio and his running mate, Dr. Kadi Sesay, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, October 19, 2012.
The chairman of Sierra Leone’s main opposition, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), said it is urging its representatives in parliament and local government to boycott all proceedings until “further notice” in the wake of the November 17 election.

European monitors praised the election as largely peaceful and well-organized. But, they criticized President Koroma's campaign for dominating pre-election media coverage and for using state resources for campaign activities.

SLPP chairman John Benjamin said his party wants an independent, international assessment of the election because he believes the voting was rigged.

“We are really challenging the conduct of the election because we have brought to the attention the fact that several malpractices have happened. We had preprinted ballot papers that were used; we had areas that voted without even a final voter register, without proper documentation,” he said.

Benjamin also cited an instance where one of the presidential candidates voted in a locality but, when the results were announced, the candidate had zero votes in that locality.

He also said security molested and arrested SLPP polling agents in some areas because they carried a valid SLPP voter register, which the party was authorized to provide to its officials. Benjamin said this affected SLPP representation in those areas.

“So, we have said that those of our members who have been arrested should be released and that government should ensure that we have an independent audit into the system. We are also looking [at] taking court action. Once those actions are addressed, we are going to be part of the system,” he said.

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Benjamin said the SLPP lodged a complaint to the National Election Commission to investigate the alleged irregularities. But, he said the commission went ahead and announced the results without a recount.

“The Election Commission had directed that we report certain issues that were reported to it to the police. Also, the complaint that we lodged with them [states] they should do [a] recounting. They ordered the recounting and, while that was going on, it was halted in the middle without any proper explanation to us,” Benjamin said.

He said the SLPP’s overall goal is to have an electoral system in Sierra Leone that is built on trust and competence.

“We want peace to continue in our country. SLPP is a party that actually brought peace to Sierra Leone. So, it’s our responsibility to make that it is sustained. So, we have asked all Sierra Leoneans to [remain] calm, but we want this process to be properly investigated. And, we have also said to the police that they should not just be there for members of the APC party; they should be there for all Sierra Leoneans so that, when they are [present to] maintain peace and order, that they should not [do] it in a manner that does not disadvantage anybody,” Benjamin said.