Vote Counting Begins in Sierra Leone Amid Alleged Irregularities. Vote counting commenced in Sierra Leone on Saturday after a general election characterized by relative peace, despite some polling stations experiencing delays. The opposition party raised concerns about alleged irregularities in the process.
President Julius Maada Bio, who faced a deadly cost-of-living crisis and riots last year, is running for a second term. Among the thirteen candidates in the race, Bio’s main challenger is Samura Kamara of the All People’s Congress (APC).
In the previous runoff election held in 2018, Bio, aged 59 and representing the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), narrowly defeated 72-year-old Kamara.
Vote Counting Begins in Sierra Leone Amid Alleged Irregularities
While polling stations were supposed to open at 7:00 am and close at 5:00 pm (1700 GMT), several stations in the capital city of Freetown had delayed openings. Journalists from AFP observed these delays.
By 5:40 pm (1740 GMT), vote tallying had begun at the Aberdeen Police Station in Freetown, as witnessed by AFP journalists. The electoral commission confirmed that polling stations would likely remain open longer, ensuring that all voters in line by 5:00 pm would be allowed to vote.
Despite logistical challenges causing delays in some polling centers, the electoral commission issued a statement affirming that polling was relatively peaceful.
Delays and Statements from Candidates
President Bio, after casting his ballot at the Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown, urged citizens to participate peacefully and exercise their voting rights. He emphasized the importance of safe voting and called for celebrations to be conducted safely if he were to win.
Samura Kamara, who voted in the Lumley neighborhood of Freetown, described the election as pivotal for Sierra Leone’s future. However, he expressed concerns about congestion at the polling station, which had opened over two hours late according to AFP journalists.
Kamara has consistently criticized the electoral commission for alleged bias in favor of the governing party.
Monitoring and Observations
National Election Watch, a coalition of civil society groups, reported that 84 percent of the observed polling stations had opened by 8:00 am. However, in the Freetown area, only 59 percent of the stations were operational by that time.
In central Freetown, two AFP journalists witnessed voting starting in the afternoon at a polling station where a soldier stated that voting began at 2:00 pm.
US Ambassador David Reimer commended the perseverance of voters, many of whom endured long hours in the sun, expressing his admiration for their commitment to exercising their right to vote via Twitter.