The Commonwealth Observer Group in Sierra Leone has welcomed the large turn-out of voters for the country’s multi-tier elections held on 24th June, and found that polling day was generally peaceful, despite heightened tensions during the week.
Announcing the Group’s preliminary findings, the Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, H.E. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said:
“We were impressed by the significant turn-out of voters and the largely peaceful conduct of elections – a testimony to the will of the people to consolidate the democratic gains of Sierra Leone. It was observed that election actors conducted themselves as expected on election day.”
However, the Observer Group noted key logistical challenges, such as the late delivery of election materials to polling centres and the delayed opening of polling stations.
They highlighted that there were some cases of inadequate public communication from the Electoral Commission, gaps in levels of transparency and a deficit in public trust in the Electoral Commission and other key state institutions, such as the judiciary.
The Group noted isolated incidents of skirmishes, police arrests and attacks on polling officials and political party agents and that a confrontation between security services and the opposition party on the day after elections had further flared political tensions.
Prof. Osinbajo stated:
“We appeal to all political parties, their supporters and other stakeholders in the electoral process to continue to show utmost restraint and allow the Electoral Commission to discharge its mandate.
“We urge all to continue upholding their commitment to the electoral pledge, signed by political parties on 25 May, with the same spirit of national unity, peace and solidarity.”
The Observer Group offered several preliminary recommendations to help address some of the challenges cited. Amongst them was a call for the Electoral Commission to conduct a thorough post-election review and establish appropriate domestic mechanisms for recommendations to be taken up.
With final results of the election expected within days, it also urged that results from tallying be published at the polling station level to allow for cross-verification by party agents as well as the public.
“We urge the Electoral Commission to exercise maximum transparency in the days ahead, as its staff finalises the tabulation of votes and prepare to release final results,” the Group stated.
Members of the Commonwealth Observer Group are expected to depart by 28th June, except in the event of a run-off between the two top presidential candidates.