Sierra Leone’s President Bio leads presidential election
Election workers count ballots at a polling station after polls closed on the day of the national election, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, June 24, 2023. REUTERS/Cooper Inveen/File photo
FREETOWN, June 26 (Reuters) – Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio is leading the presidential election count, the West African country’s electoral commission said on Monday after 60% of votes have been counted.
Bio, 59, is running for a second term against 12 opponents. His biggest rival is All People’s Congress’ (APC) candidate Samura Kamara, who narrowly lost to Bio in the last election in 2018.
A provisional results sheet showed Bio had received over 1 million votes so far, compared with just under 800,000 for Kamara. Final verified results will be announced within the next 48 hours, the commission said on Monday afternoon.
The election has been tense. The APC said their election representatives were attacked and intimidated in three districts on election day. The election commission on Sunday outlined several instances where officials were beaten or intimidated.
A woman was found severely wounded and without a pulse at Sierra Leone’s opposition party headquarters on Sunday after police surrounded the building during a post-election news conference, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
Sierra Leoneans fear more unrest could occur as results are announced, particularly if none of the 13 candidates secures 55% of the votes cast, a situation that would trigger a runoff between the top two.
The country is still emerging from a 1991-2002 civil war in which more than 50,000 were killed and hundreds maimed.
International observers have voiced concern about lack of transparency in the tallying of ballots.
Augustine Sorie-Sengbe Marrah, an election observer and lawyer said it was up to the electoral commission to address any allegations of unfairness through transparency.
“Because if you say, opposition parties allege that there hasn’t been a level playing field by the ECSL (Electoral Commission Sierra Leone), I think it behooves them to ensure that they’re transparent and accountable to all parties every step of the way,” Marrah told Reuters.
Bio addressed the nation after the publication of provisional results on Monday evening and called on citizens to keep the peace.
“We each have a stake in maintaining peace during and after the announcement of results of these elections,” he said in a televised speech.