Thursday, 26 April, 2018

Sierra Leone: Voters head to polls to elect new president

Sierra Leone: Voters head to polls to elect new president Sierra Leone: Voters head to polls to elect new president
Melinda Barton | 07 March, 2018, 23:22

Voting in Sierra Leone's long awaited general elections began on Wednesday with long queues of citizens waiting for their turn to cast their ballot.In many centers voting started at the official time of 7am, while there were a few delays in some areas.

Sixteen candidates are aiming to replace President Ernest Bai Koroma who is stepping down after completing his constitutionally-allowed two terms.

The export-dependent economy of the mineral-rich but impoverished country is in a dire state following the 2014-16 Ebola crisis and a commodity price slump that has driven away foreign investors.

"The Sierra Leone Bar Association however notes that the legal provisions cited can not be a basis and/or justification for the said Public Notice, in particular Section 18 (3) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991 and Section 32 of the Police Act of 1964 which has been repealed".

Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella's National Grand Coalition and Samuel Sam-Sumana's Coalition for Change are also expected to secure a high number of votes.

While advising the stakeholders to ensure non-violent processes during elections, Jonathan also stressed "the need to sustain the peace that the good people of Sierra Leone have been enjoying since the end of the civil war". "But there are complaints from the opposition that the ruling party's partisans are stuffing ballots in some of their strongholds, particularly Tonkolili", said Sierra Leonean political analyst and author Lansana Gberie. "You do not have to be the biggest, the fastest or the strongest to determine the future of your country", said National Electoral Commission (NEC) chairman, Mohamed Conteh.

"The present government has got a lot of clout".

He said Sierra Leone will mark yet another historic milestone in the consolidation of its democracy and enjoined all Sierra Leoneans to remain peaceful as they go to the polls to exercise their constitutional rights to vote for a new President.

Meanwhile, outgoing president Koroma's increasing reliance on China for infrastructure, including a new airport and adjoining toll road, have raised concerns that Beijing is seeking to keep the APC in power.

Observers from the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and the British Commonwealth are all overseeing voting.

Voter freebies and funding for campaign materials could "potentially influence the voting public" in the APC's favour, it added.