ECOWAS OBSERVATION MISSION APPEALS FOR CALM AS SIERRA LEONEANS AWAIT ELECTIONS RESULTS

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The ECOWAS Observation Mission to Sierra Leone’s general elections has continued its preventive diplomacy initiatives with key political stakeholders 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. 

Dr Chambas accompanied by H.E. Hailemariam Desalegne Boshe, Head of the AU Mission, also met with Dr Mohamed Konneh, Chief of Commissioner of the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL), and his staff to discuss issues arising from Saturday’s electoral process, including initial logistics challenges and the delay in the commencement of voting in some polling stations.

The Chief Commissioner informed the Heads of Missions that the Commission had started the collation of ballots ahead of the announcement of preliminary results.

Apart from isolated incidents of skirmishes, agitation by some voters anxious to cast ballots, and the attack on polling officials reported in one electoral district, the elections passed off relatively peacefully in the majority of the 16 electoral districts.

Dr Chambas, who is supported by the Deputy Head of Mission, Amb. Ansumana Ceesay, Amb. Moussa Harouna, ECOWAS Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, and Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, also met with officials of Sierra Leone’s Political Party Regulations Commission (PPRC) and the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC).

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 exercise patience 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, the Head of Mission said.

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 councillors.

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.

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