Thursday, September 13, 2007

The vote count continues

Hi all. Below is an update from my intrepid guest-blogger and vote-watcher Adam. As the results roll in, so do many stories of obvious vote-rigging. These include multiple polling stations in which the number of votes cast exceed the number of registered voters -- a clear sign of trouble. The electoral commission is tossing out any such results, and will also investigate all polling stations with 100% turn-out and any polling stations with a turn out above 95% for which someone filed a formal complaint.

Some people have asked me what the rigging actually entails -- i.e., how do people mess with the votes. I'm not sure, but the conventional wisdom is that rigging is most prevalent in areas that are strongholds of a single party. If there are no independent observers or observers from the minority party, and everyone present is a supporter of the majority party, then perhaps no one objects if people vote multiple times or otherwise stuff the ballot box.

Anyway, by most accounts the rigging is pretty evenly split between both parties, and will not be decisive in determining the winner.

The key now is whether people accept the results once finalized.


Count is now on 76.1 percent and we're getting extremely close to being able to declare APC as the winners since on current votes they are ahead 60-40 (a huge lead of nearly 300,000 votes). The SLPP would need all but 5 percent of the votes yet to be declared to win, which to be frank doesn't look likely.

Incredibly, the APC currently has 43 percent of Bonthe votes with 94 percent declared, and 38 percent of Moyamba votes. The Margai factor has been huge. The projection is that the numbers will narrow a fair bit, to 55-45 since there are quite a few SLPP votes still to declare, but that would still be a big winning margin (around 200,000 votes in fact).

This will be my last message, as I am flying out tomorrow and there is no press conference now until Monday since it seems that the last 25 percent are mostly the subject of investigation. NEC [the electoral commission] are investigating all results with a turn-out of over 95 percent which have official complaints lodged, investigating all incidences of 100 percent turnout and invalidating all results with over 100 percent turnout, and, reading between the lines, this would seem to involve much of the final quarter of results.

Looking at districts still to post significant results, and if what NEC says about investigations on suspect turn-out mainly applies to these stations - as appears to be the case - then Pujehun, Kenema and Kailahun are the main suspects from an SLPP perspective, and to a lesser extent Bombali and Kambia for the APC.

If you add the votes remaining from the Northern districts yet to declare you get an estimated 80,000 APC votes which would take them very, very close to the mark. Meanwhile if a lot of these suspect results are cancelled then the APC will win by a country mile anyway. But the process will take a while yet, and there have now to be concerns about renewed violence in the meantime.

All the best from a very sunny Freetown.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The count begins

My friend Adam is putting together daily updates on the runoff vote count, so rather than trying to redo that on my own, I'm going to post some of his updates.

Here is his account of the runoff on Saturday and the returns thus far.

Thanks to Adam for guest blogging.


We've been having all kinds of fun here.

Bits and bobs of violence in the run-up to the election, but Saturday was pretty peaceful all round. A bit of ballot box stuffing and intimidation was alleged by both parties in the other's respective core areas, but hopefully it will come out as broadly free and fair, which is certainly what Christina Thorpe [head of the electoral commission] is saying. It was a lovely weekend to be in Sierra Leone, and the sun is even shining again.

Early provisional results suggest the APC has done quite well onpicking up PMDC votes in Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba, Freetown and Kono, which with a continued strong showing in the West and North would probably be enough for Ernest Koroma (of the APC) to take the Presidency. The independent news network radio, who collect provisional results from outside polling stations, are giving Koroma 54 percent based on a spread of 35 percent of results from around the country.

Today's official results, based on 22.2 percent of the vote are even more striking, with the APC taking 64 percent to SLPP's 36. Projecting these out gives a 60-40 victory for Koroma. The APC are picking up votes everywhere, running neck and neck in Kono, taking 44 percent in Moyamba, 40 percent in Bo and even over 30 percent in Pujehun of votes declared thus far. The Freetown margins are huge, around 70 percent APC. Charles Margai seems to have been a big factor. There are no results yet from Kailahun, Kambia, Bonthe or Koinadugu so the projections will be more accurate when these come in, but if these districts even roughly balance each other out then it will be a massive APC victory, not even close.

This doesn't happen very often in Africa. Stay posted!