Freetown – Sierra Leone’s High Court on Saturday ordered the electoral commission to halt preparations for a March 27 presidential run-off following a legal filing by a lawyer linked to the ruling party.
The order stops the National Electoral Commission (NEC) from working until “the hearing and determination of this court”, adjourning the matter until Monday, the eve of the vote.
This would allow time for the commission to submit a question to the Supreme Court, it said, after which the High Court would sit again to reconsider the matter.
The decision means the commission will be unable to transport election materials or organise polling until the injunction is lifted.
Lawyer Ibrahim Sorie Koroma, a member of the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC), argued in his filing that electoral fraud allegations should be investigated before the vote goes ahead.
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.
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.
There are already opposition accusations the police are in the pocket of the APC after they entered NEC premises and interrogated staff this week.
That follows a raid on the home of SLPP candidate Bio after polls closed on the day of the first round.
That vote was declared fair and credible by international and domestic observers.