The ECOWAS Observation Mission to Sierra Leone’s general elections has called for patience as Sierra Leoneans anxiously await the results of Saturday, 24th June 2023 polls.
The Head of the ECOWAS Mission, Dr Mohamed Chambas, met on Sunday with his counterparts from other International Observation Missions, including the African Union, the Commonwealth, EU, the West Africa Elders’ Forum, and the Carter Foundation, to compare notes on the reports and information from their observers in the field.
The Head of Mission commended Sierra Leoneans for coming out in their numbers to cast their vote and for the disciplined manner they conducted themselves.
He further urged all stakeholders, especially the political parties and their candidates and supporters to be patient in the post-election period.
The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone is also enjoined to demonstrate responsibility by expediting the tabulation process and the release of preliminary results in a professional and timely manner.
ECOWAS deployed 95 observers for the presidential, parliamentary, mayoral, and local council elections.
During its multiple pre-election consultations with major political stakeholders, the Mission underscored the need for a peaceful and credible electoral process, the consolidation of post-conflict governance gains in the country, and the deepening of democracy in the ECOWAS region.
Sorting and counting of ballots began on Saturday at the close of voting by 5:00 PM in many of the 11,832 polling stations nationwide, but at the behest of the Electoral Commission, voting continued well into the night in some polling stations, where the exercise was delayed due to the late arrival of polling officials or materials.
Long queues formed very early in many of the 16 electoral districts with some voters expressing frustration at the slow process in some polling stations.
However, the exercise picked up during the day, with the ECSL directing the polling stations to ensure that every voter in the queue by 5:00 PM was allowed to cast his/her ballot. This meant that sorting and counting went into early Sunday morning in some polling stations.
In Saturday’s elections across 3,630 polling Centers, 3,374,258 registered voters out of an estimated population of 8.7 million voted for a new president, 135 parliamentarians, and 493 mayors and local councilors.
Incumbent President Julius Maada Bio, 59, of the ruling SLPP, is seeking a second term.
He is being challenged by 12 other contestants, including Samura Kamara, 72, of the main opposition APC, defeated by Bio in the 2018 election.
Results of Saturday’s polls are expected to be announced within 48 hours and if no candidate gets the mandatory 55% of the valid votes in the first round, the two frontrunners will go into a run-off election two weeks after the official announcement of the first-round result.