19 November 2012

Sierra Leone: In Spite of Logistical Problems

Photo: Tiggy Ridley/IRIN
A policeman uses a poster to show a woman how to mark a ballot correctly (file photo).

The National Elections Watch (NEW) yesterday commended the National Electoral Commission (NEC) for the institution's neutrality demonstrated in the conduct of the electioneering process so far despite logistical problems noted in the opening procedures.

At a press conference hosted at the Talking Drum Studio on Bathurst Street in Freetown, the organization's spokesperson, Ngolo Katta, told local and international journalists that in spite of the restriction imposed on the movement of citizens, there was a high turnout at polling centers across the country.

"In spite of logistical problems noted in the opening procedures, we commend NEC on its neutrality demonstrated in its conduct of the electoral process so far. Data on the electoral process from us is largely positive," he said, while calling on NEC's attention to several outstanding issues, particularly the disenfranchisement of voters and procedural irregularities observed.

He explained that only 66% out of the 620 stations allowed voters who were waiting at the closing time of 5pm to cast their votes; a situation he said constituted a serious breach of fundamental voter rights.

According to Katta, even though 800 polling stations were opened with adequate security agents, NEC staff and voting equipment available, there was a long delay in the opening of polls in many areas due to voting materials and polling station staff failing to arrive on time.

"Data collected from our observers was largely positive. The overwhelming majority signaled the confirmation that procedures have been followed according to NEC rules. We are concerned about certain irregularities associated with insufficient ballots at some centers, and in Koinadugu where a Final Voter Register list was reconstituted on the spot," he maintained.

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