Vote tally underway in Sierra Leone election
Freetown (AFP) – Vote tallying was underway in Sierra Leone on Sunday, the electoral commission said, as the opposition claimed a lack of transparency following fiercely fought general elections a day earlier.
Vote tallying was underway in Sierra Leone on Sunday, the electoral commission said, as the opposition claimed a lack of transparency following fiercely fought general elections a day earlier.
Tallying, which consists of adding up counted ballots from each polling unit at the regional level, was taking place in the capital Freetown as well as in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Port Loko, the commission said.
On Saturday, Sierra Leoneans voted in presidential, parliamentary and local elections, with many polling stations opening late in the capital.
Many also closed late, with voting officially ending at 11:30 pm (2330 GMT) Saturday, according to the chief electoral commissioner, Mohamed Konneh. Full results were expected within 48 hours of the close.
Konneh said at a press conference Sunday that it had been “one of the best election days” in recent history, “if not the best”.
But the presidential candidate of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC), Samura Kamara, alleged in a statement that the electoral commission was making it “impossible for us and other political parties to compare, reconcile and verify” tallying.
The party has for weeks accused the electoral commission of bias in favour of the governing party, raising speculation that it is laying the groundwork for a court challenge of the results — a tactic both parties have used in the past.
The chief commissioner said the party’s demands were “practically impossible” given the scale of the tallying.
On Saturday, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, an observation group, said voting had been “relatively peaceful” — as did the electoral commission in a late afternoon statement.
On Sunday, however, Konneh outlined a number of districts where he said polling staff had been attacked.
Also on Sunday, the chairman of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Prince Alex Harding, outlined a handful of alleged cases of intimidation or violence against its agents, “despite the relatively peaceful conduct of the elections”.
Meanwhile, senior members of the opposition party told AFP that violence had taken place near several polling centres in Freetown on Saturday evening.
The head of the Office of National Security, Abdulai Caulker, said at a press conference that he was not aware of the alleged incidents.
The APC has also alleged that its supporters were attacked while campaigning in rural parts of the country.
– Key players –
Twelve men and one woman were running for president, but incumbent Bio’s main challenger is Kamara of the APC. Bio narrowly beat Kamara in a runoff in 2018.
Both main parties said they were confident of victory in statements on Sunday.
Rising food prices are a key issue for many in the import-dependent West African nation of eight million people.
Year-on-year inflation hit 43 percent in April, according to the latest official figures.
Some 3.4 million people were registered to vote, 52.4 percent of whom are under 35 years old, according to the electoral commission.
Presidential candidates must secure 55 percent of valid votes for a first-round win.
Turnout has ranged from 76 to 87 percent over the past three elections.
Voters will also elect members of parliament and local councils under proportional representation, after a last-minute switch from a first-past-the-post system.
Under a recently passed gender act, one-third of all candidates must be women.
A new 11.9 percent vote threshold will make it difficult for independents and minority parties to secure seats in parliament.
Many Sierra Leoneans vote based on regional allegiances, with jobs and benefits commonly perceived to flow to regions whose politicians are in power.
A June 14 poll by the Institute for Governance Reform, a partner of the pan-African survey group Afrobarometer, forecast that Bio would win 56 percent of the vote, with 43 percent for Kamara.
Another poll, conducted by the newspaper Sierra Eye and two local data groups, forecast 38 percent for the incumbent and 25 percent for his main challenger.
The elections are being closely followed in West Africa, a region recently dominated by coups and turmoil.