THE ECOWAS Observation Mission monitoring Sierra Leone’s general elections has called for patience as the nation eagerly awaits the results of the polls held on Saturday, June 24.
The election has been marred by reports of attacks and intimidation against agents of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) in three districts.
There have also been instances where election officials were beaten or intimidated. Concerns have been raised by international observers regarding transparency in the tallying of ballots.
Head of the ECOWAS Mission Mohamed Chambas commended Sierra Leoneans for their enthusiastic turnout and the disciplined manner in which they conducted themselves during the voting process and urged all stakeholders, particularly political parties, candidates, and supporters, to remain patient during the post-election period.
The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) has also been called upon to demonstrate responsibility by expediting the tabulation process and releasing preliminary results in a professional and timely manner.
An election observer and lawyer Augustine Sorie-Sengbe Marrah, emphasised the importance of the electoral commission addressing any allegations of unfairness through transparency.
Sorting and counting of ballots began immediately after the polling stations closed at 5:00 pm on Saturday. However, due to delays caused by the late arrival of polling officials or materials, voting continued into the night in some polling stations, as directed by the ECSL.
The elections, held across 3,630 polling centres, saw a total of 3,374,258 registered voters participating to elect a new President, 135 parliamentarians and 493 mayors and local councillors.
Incumbent President Julius Maada Bio, 59, representing the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), is seeking a second term and, reportedly, is currently in the lead with over one million votes. His main challenger with less than 800, 000 votes is Samura Kamara, 72, of the APC, who narrowly lost to Bio in the 2018 election.
Meanwhile, Kamara has reportedly said he would not accept any results that are deemed biased, manipulated, or unverified, assuring his supporters and the citizens of Sierra Leone that the APC remains steadfast in its pursuit of an overwhelming victory.
Amidst these claims, the announcement of the election results is expected latest by Wednesday.
If no candidate secures the mandatory 55 per cent of valid votes in the first round, a runoff election between the top two candidates will be held two weeks after the official announcement of the first-round results.
The National Secretary General of the ruling SLPP Umaru Napoleon Koroma, has asserted that, based on preliminary reports, incumbent Bio is confident of securing a resounding victory, as results collated at the party’s centers indicate that a runoff election will not be necessary.
Koroma added that the people had spoken decisively, entrusting Bio with the nation’s destiny for another five years.
Sierra Leone on edge
Sierra Leone remains on edge during the election period, haunted by memories of a devastating civil war that ravaged the country from 1991 to 2002.
The country’s citizens are acutely aware of the potential for unrest if a majority consensus is not achieved, heightening the importance of a peaceful and credible electoral process.
In a televised speech following the publication of provisional results on Monday evening, Bio called on citizens to maintain peace during and after the announcement of the election results, stressing the collective responsibility of all to uphold stability.
“We each have a stake in maintaining peace during and after the announcement of results of these elections,” he stated.
About 95 ECOWAS observers were deployed to monitor the presidential, parliamentary, mayoral and local council elections in the West African country.