UPDATE: Sierra Leone third parties complain after election setback

Kandeh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition (NGC)

Media Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

FREETOWN – Two upstart Sierra Leone political parties said Wednesday they had filed complaints over this month’s elections after failing to make the cut for the second round of the presidential ballot.

The National Grand Coalition (NGC) took 6.9 percent of votes in the March 7 elections to the presidency while the Coalition for Change (C4C) garnered 3.5 percent.

The results left them far behind the two frontrunners, who go into a deciding round on March 27.

The NGC — whose rise last year spurred talk of the emergence of a third party in national politics — is headed by Kandeh Yumkella, a former figure in the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which topped the poll.

C4C is led by Samuel Sam-Sumana, a former vice-president of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party.

“We at NGC are not satisfied with the presidential results,” NGC campaign manager Julius Spencer told AFP in the capital Freetown.

“NGC is currently consulting our legal team to challenge the results in court,” he added.

The party had earlier called for a recount of the votes in some polling stations but said it had not received any update on the outcome, though the National Election Commission (NEC) did several recounts before announcing results on Tuesday.

The C4C meanwhile said in a statement it “does not trust the published figures and we demand a recount in many instances,” adding the NEC had been officially notified.

The head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, urged candidates to use “peaceful and legal means to redress any grievances and complaints they may have” in a statement on Wednesday.

The March 7 elections also chose a new parliament and members of local councils, the results of which have not yet been announced.

The export-dependent economy of this mineral-rich but impoverished West African country is in a dire state following the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, while a commodity price slump has driven away foreign investors.

Opposition leader Julius Maada Bio of the SLPP took 43.3 percent of votes in the March 7 election, while Samura Kamara of the APC took 42.7 percent, the commission said on Tuesday.

The threshold for an outright win was 55 percent.

Maada Bio boasted on Wednesday the APC was “finished”.

“Most of their own supporters voted SLPP because the people need change for the development of Sierra Leone,” the retired brigadier said.

Kamara, who had emerged from the vote confident of outright victory, appeared to acknowledge the blow of coming second on Wednesday, telling public radio: “All we need now in the second round is to ensure that there is no disconnect and complacency.”

Both candidates urged peaceful conduct among their supporters in the face of harassment or intimidation, which has plagued party activists of all sides during the vote.

Campaigning for the second round ends on March 25.

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