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Cablegate: Sierra Leone Closes Book On Local Elections

VZCZCXRO9533
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0402/01 2261255
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131255Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2115
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FREETOWN 000402

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PREL PGOV SL
SUBJECT: SIERRA LEONE CLOSES BOOK ON LOCAL ELECTIONS

REF: FREETOWN 300

1. Summary: The winners of the local elections were
inaugurated in regional events August 8 through 11. The
swearing-in ceremonies were the last step in finalizing the
results, ending a hectic 12-month period in which three major
elections were held. This most recent round of elections were
relatively unblemished by irregularities, resulted in more
women being voted into local office than ever before, and
showcased resounding victories, both expected and unexpected,
for the All People's Congress Party in a number of locations.
Sierra Leone now faces the challenge of ensuring that lessons
learned throughout this election period are remembered for
the next major test of democratic pratice and principles, the
2012 elections. End Summary.

-------------------
ELECTION STATISTICS
-------------------

2. Final election statistics, as reported by the National
Electoral Commission (NEC) are as follows:

- The final average national turnout was 38.8%. The low
turnout relative to the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary
elections (75.8%) continues to be attributed to voter fatigue
and apathy.

- Of 5,883 polling stations, 14 were invalidated due to voter
turnout reported in excess of 100%. The NEC has assured the
public that these incidences of electoral malfeasance have
been turned over to the authorities for investigation and
prosecution.

- The total number of votes entered was 1,056,440. Of the
total votes, 61,916 were invalid, representing 5.9% of the
votes cast. This is less than the invalidated votes for the
Presidential (7.3%) and Parliamentary (8.94%) elections in
2007.

- By virtue of its size, Freetown had the highest number of
polling stations and valid and invalid votes. Kenema had the
second-highest number of voters and invalid votes. Prior to
the elections, political parties and observers expressed
concern that insufficient voter education, particularly in
locations with multi-ward ballots, would cause confusion at
the polls and increase the chances of invalid votes. The
statistics show that concerns for large-scale invalidations
were largely unfounded.

- The NEC received 167 complaints from political parties and
candidates related to a number of issues, which are being
investigated by the Sierra Leone Police and the NEC. The
results from 20 polling stations were recounted as a result
of the complaints.

- One instance was identified in which the wrong winner was
declared. Due to a technical issue, an indepdendent candidate
in Ward 85 in Kono District was announced as the winner,
though the actual victor is the SLPP candidate. The matter
was taken to court on August 11, and NEC officials expect the
rightful winner to take his place on the Kono District
Council shortly.

----------------
ELECTION RESULTS
----------------

3. Final election results are as follows:

- Of the 19 mayoral or chairperson positions, the All
People's Congress (APC) party won 10 positions, the Sierra
Leone People's Party (SLPP) won 8 positions, and the People's
Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) won 1 position. In
Bombali District, the winning candidate was elected unopposed.

- Of the 456 councilor positions, APC won 253, SLPP won 170,
and PMDC won 16. Independent candidates successfully
contested for 17 seats. Thirty-eight councilor seats were won
in uncontested wards.

- While women were unsuccessful in mayoral/chairperson
contests, 86 were elected for councilor positions. now
representing 18.1% of councilors. This is a 65% increase from
the 2004 local elections. There is now at least one woman on
every council in the country.

--------------
PARTY ANALYSIS
--------------


FREETOWN 00000402 002 OF 002


4. The APC are the resounding victors of the local elections,
winning the majority of the overall positions being
contested. They were successful in locations that are not
typical APC strongholds, such as Koidu, Kono, Bo, and Bonthe
(Note: Per reftel, allegations of voter intimidation by APC
leadership in these areas were rampant prior to election day.
Many will point to their unexpected victories as a sign that
these allegations were true. Though it is impossible to
determine how inappropriate and/or criminal behavior might
have contributed to these results, it is likely that it did
play a role. End Note.). The PMDC party expected a stronger
showing in Bo District, but appear to have lost some momentum
among their most reliable supporters. The SLPP expected
better results overall, and will be conducting a post-mortem
on what went wrong prior to their next party conference in
November 2008.

-------
COMMENT
-------

5. Though the local elections were not without some
controversy, they are generally being viewed as free, fair,
and an example of Sierra Leone's strong commitment to peace
and democracy. The five years until the next nationwide
elections can be viewed as both a challenge and an
opportunity for the NEC - a challenge to maintain the ability
to meet the standards set by the 2007 and 2008 elections, and
an opportunity to use the current momentum and goodwill to
firmly establish itself as a model for the region through
further capacity-building and outreach efforts. End comment.
FEDZER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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