Uncertainty looms over the viability of the parliament and the functioning of local councils in Sierra Leone following disputes around the June 24 national elections, which were officially won by the incumbent President Julius Maada Bio and his Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The elections were marred by political violence unparalleled since the decade-long civil war in the ’90s.
Alleging fraud, elected officials of the main opposition party, the All People’s Congress (APC), signed a statement on July 5, reiterating that they will not participate in the parliament and local councils, in which the party had officially won 40 percent and a little over 36 percent of the seats respectively.
“If APC members refuse to take their seats in the parliament, the parliament will not be able [to] pass any statutory instruments… [It] will be short of the required two-thirds majority,” Victor Jones, member of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and editor of its fact-checking project iVerify, told Peoples Dispatch.
Along with APC’s members of parliament, APC chairpersons and councilors of local district councils, and mayors, including of the capital Freetown, have signed the APC statement, reiterating their non-participation.
The elections for parliamentary and local council were held simultaneously with the presidential election on June 24, in what Jones described as an “uncharacteristically hostile environment.”
“Elections in the past were conducted in a fair manner, in relative peace. International observers have often appreciated the elections here. But this time, it was different,” he explained. He added that the houses of multiple APC leaders, including a former mayor, were burnt down in the run-up to the election, allegedly by supporters of the ruling SLPP.