The waiting and anxiety became unbearable after pressmen, diplomats, political party officers, and observers had waited for about two hours for the National Returning Officer, Dr Christiana Thorpe, to announce the presidential run-off results.
When she finally came, the noisy hall became silent like a graveyard of yesteryears and only the whirring of the fan at the National Electoral Commissioner Media Centre at the British Council hall showed any sign of life.
Defying the serene calmness in the hall, the commissioner for the East, Mr Nyallay took the podium and announced in his staccato voice: “ladies and gentlemen, I am disassociating myself from the statement and the results that would be declared here today”. Then he came down and walked out of the hall.
Before people could adjust to this bombshell, the commissioner for the South, Winston Minah took the podium and announced that he was also disassociating himself from the results and walked out of the hall.
As if nothing had happened, the NEC chairperson settled in her chair with a broad smile and smoothly announced that the commission was made up of five commissioners and that whilst two commissioners had disassociated themselves from the announcement of the results, three of them formed a quorum which would make the announcement of the results valid.
This announcement by the NEC chairperson brought the whole hall to life again and was greeted with uneasy but hopeful applauses.
Dr Thorpe said, “we at NEC are satisfied with the verification process which was undertaken, and are very confident that the official results we are about to announce are indeed those recorded in the polling stations and accurately reflect the will of the voters.”
Dr Thorpe announced that, “the commission noted that polling station results with turn-outs of over 100%. It is impossible for voters’ turnout in excess of 100% to have taken place without fraud or illegal action. The commission has been left with no option but to invalidate all results from polling stations reporting over 100% turnout. In all, 477 stations across the country have thus been invalidated, as follows: Kailahun: 90, Kenema: 65, Kono: 9, Bombali: 17, Kambia: 8, Koinadugu: 12, Port Loko: 2, Tonkolili: 6,
Bo: 123, Bonthe: 2, Moyamba: 24, Pujehun: 113, Western Rural: 1 and Western Urban: 5″.
The NEC commissioner pointed out that the commission regretted the fact that they had to invalidate even a single polling station, which was a decision that the NEC did not take lightly.
“However, the responsibility for the act of invalidation falls on those who are responsible for the malpractices, it is they who should be held accountable for disenfranchising voters, as there were legitimate votes cast in these polling stations,” she hammered
The NEC commissioner explained that according to international election standards the invalidation of votes does not require a repeat of the polling exercise if the act of invalidation did not affect the outcome of the polls.
“The National Electoral Commission can confirm that in the case of 8 September poll these invalidations have not affected the outcome of the election,” she stressed.
Dr Thorpe also revealed that the commission also discovered counterfeit results forms which were sent to NEC from polling stations throughout the country.
“It was not difficult to detect them as they contained a spelling mistake in the title the word: ‘form’ was spelt ‘from’. Three such cases were identified at polling centres 07131 in Port Loko, 11153 in Moyamba and 13056 in Western Rural,” she pointed out. The National Returning Officer said the commission responded by recovering the original forms issued to the stations which contained the true and accurate results and that these were then entered into the tally.
Dr Thorpe also announced that there were also attempts at ballot stuffing and ballot-box swapping, but that they were detected thanks to the measures put in place and the investigations conducted.
She added that, through the recounting process undertaken with party agents and observers, the commission was able to either confirm results or uncover various anomalies which were then addressed to accurately reflect the poll.
The NEC chairperson in a solemn manner stated that, “there is a very important message arising from these elections: there is no longer a place for fraud and malpractice in the Sierra Leone electoral system. The people of Sierra Leone deserve to exercise their rights in an atmosphere of freedom, fairness and transparency.
This is what NEC strived to provide and will continue to strive for in the future – nothing less will be tolerated. Those who cheated have succeeded in doing a disservice to their respective candidates. They also succeeded in disenfranchising fellow Sierra Leoneans. But they did not succeed in tarnishing either the results or the credibility of the process.”