Counting of votes is ongoing across polling stations in Sierra Leone where elections were held Saturday across the different districts in the West African country.
The election is considered a straight contest between the president and candidate of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Julius Bio, and Samura Kamara, the flagbearer of the All Peoples Congress (APC).
Other presidential candidates in the elections are Bah Mohamed Chernoh of the National Democratic Alliance; Coker Prince, People’s Democratic Party; Jonjo Mohamed, Citizens Democratic Party; Kabuta Henry, United National Peoples Party; and Kakay Iye, Alliance Democratic Party.
Also on the ballot are Kamara Musa, Peace and Liberation Party; Margai Francis, People’s Movement For Democratic Change; Saccoh Dougakoro, Revolutionary United Front Party; Sandy Patrick, National Unity and Reconciliation Party; Sowa-Turay Mohamed, United Democratic Movement; and Williams Victor, Republic National Independent Party.
In addition to the presidential ballot, Sierra Leonean voters will also elect members of parliament and local councillors in what will be the fifth election since the end of the country’s civil war, 21 years ago.
Despite the pre-election tension and violent rhetoric, the election has largely been peaceful across different parts of the country.
In Freetown, the nation’s capital city, PREMIUM TIMES observed that voters trooped out peacefully to cast their votes for their favourite candidates. In few places where voting was delayed such as the SOS Children Village in Lumley, electoral officials eventually arrived to salvage the situation before noon.
In many parts of the Western District of Sierra Leone, voting has ended as of press time Saturday night while counting of votes was ongoing. At Salam Secondary School, Kossoh Town Western Rural, polling center 15124, three people were disenfranchised.
According to ECSL workers at the center, the Identity cards (ID) presented by the voters were not valid as the information on their voter’s register didn’t match the ID Cards of the three voters.
At Constituency 105, Polling Center 15003, Ward 372, three people were caught trying to engage in double voting. The ECSL voter’s register at the center showed that the three men had voted, or other people might have voted on their behalf earlier, and they were handed over to the security forces for further investigation.
At Waterloo, Western Rural District, polling center 15005, Ward 373, Constituency 105, there were reported cases of suspected ballot stuffing, which resulted in violence. But PREMIUM TIMES understands that the security forces promptly contained the situation. Voting was also delayed at Constituency 127, New England Ville, due to the late arrival of polling materials.
Although the election has been relatively peaceful, with high voter turnout, late arrival of voting materials remains a concern, says John Kamara, a resident of Waterloo.
Announcement of Results
Results of the election are expected to trickle in at the end of the manual counting of votes, says Jalloh Mohamed, an election observer in Freetown.
If no presidential candidate secures 55 per cent of valid votes cast in the first ballot, the top two candidates will slug it out in a run-off two weeks after the announcement of the first-round result, according to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL).
Many voters and analysts expect the presidential elections to spill into a run-off, due to the pre-election tension and popularity of the two leading candidates––President Julius Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) who is seeking a second and final term and Samura Kamara, 72, the flag bearer of the All Peoples Congress (APC).
Ahead of the polls, security agencies had advised radio stations to desist from announcing the results of the elections until the electoral umpire makes official announcement.
While voting in the elections is scheduled to end by 5:00pm, the ECSL on Saturday said that voters in queues must be allowed to vote. The electoral umpire, in a press statement posted on its Twitter handle, also acknowledged the late arrival of polling materials in some parts of the Western District due to “logistic” reasons.
It called on Sierra Leoneans to eschew violence and allow the process to run peacefully.
Manual counting of votes was ongoing in many of the polling stations across the country as of press time Saturday night.
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