Sierra Leone: Commonwealth Observers Say Environment On Election Day Was Conducive

Supporters of the ruling All Congress Party ride a truck during a rally in Port Loko, Sierra Leone

The Commonwealth Observer Group has stated in their preliminary report that the electoral environment on election day was conducive for the free exercise of the people's franchise and basic freedoms were respected.

Chair of the Group, former Ghana President John Dramani Mahama, expressed hope that the spirit of orderliness and peace, which characterised the voting process, would prevail as the process enters the phase of tallying, collation and announcement of results.

Mr. Mahama told a presser in Freetown last Friday that their observers reported that most polling stations opened on time, with few exceptions, and that delays observed did not appear deliberate but seemed to be as result of logistical challenges or misunderstanding.

"At the opening of the polls, NEC officials largely followed the opening procedures and voting generally proceeded in an atmosphere of calm and orderliness, even if slow in some instances," he said and added that they were struck by the long queues in some polling stations.

He described the process as inclusive, with a balance of women and men playing their roles as voters and polling officials, but observed that in some polling centres with multiple stations there was neither a queue controller nor a reference guide to assist voters.

However, the erstwhile President of Ghana noted that while the vehicle restriction imposed by the Sierra Leone Police on election day created conducive security environment, but could have disenfranchised citizens.

He urged that the ban be reviewed for future elections as according to him, "elections remain one of the most vibrant and participatory expression of citizen's democratic rights."

Mr. Mahama flew into Freetown on the invitation of the PPRC ahead of the crucial election to broker peace agreement among the presidential aspirants. He added that the presence of the police and in some cases heavily armed military personnel, was intrusive and intimidating to some voters.

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