Posted On March 24, 2018 By In None With 90 Views

Sierra Leone court issue delay order for presidential run-off

Freetown, March 24, 2018 (AFP)

Sierra Leone’s High Court on Saturday issued an order to halt Tuesday’s presidential run-off until it resolves a legal dispute filed by a lawyer linked to the ruling party.
Tensions are high ahead of the vote with a campaign marked by violent attacks and intimidation against politicians and supporters, along with an increase in inflammatory tribal rhetoric.
The order prevents the National Electoral Commission (NEC) from going ahead with the vote until “the hearing and determination of this court”, and also prevents the body from undertaking preparations including distribution of election materials.
The court adjourned the case until Monday to allow time for the commission to submit a question to the Supreme Court, after which the High Court will sit again to reconsider the matter.
“Noting that the matter will return to court on Monday, 26 March, the commission will temporarily cease all logistical preparations for the run-off,” the polling body said in a statement.
Lawyer Ibrahim Sorie Koroma, a member of the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC), had argued in his filing that electoral fraud allegations should be investigated before the vote goes ahead.
The first round was declared fair and credible by international and domestic observers.
The APC’s candidate, Samura Kamara, finished slightly behind Julius Maada Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in the first round of voting on March 7, but neither candidate gained the 55 percent of votes needed to win outright.
Kamara told AFP on the campaign trail he was “looking forward to the courts ensuring that NEC clears all the discrepancies and irregularities of the March 7 election before the run-off,” speaking at a meet and greet in Freetown.
The opposition has already alleged that the police are puppets of the APC after they entered the NEC premises and interrogated staff this week, and say the party is now using the courts to try and derail the electoral process.
“We view this so-called interim injunction as a deliberate ploy by President Ernest Koroma to illegally extend his tenure,” an SLPP statement issued late Saturday said.
“All indications are that President Koroma will not hand over power without the involvement of the international community, as he has compromised the efficacy of all state institutions, including the judiciary,” it added.
The police raided the home of SLPP candidate Bio after polls closed on the day of the first round, but did not arrest him.
The Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said Thursday the polling body was “working under exceptional challenges to discharge its constitutional responsibilities within tight time constraints”.
He further demanded all sides “exercise restraint and not interfere with or compromise the independence and integrity of NEC”.

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