Unlike the August 11 elections which were described as free fair and transparent, the European Union Observer Mission in Sierra Leone has referred to the September presidential runoff as “generally well administered.”
The Elections Observer Mission points out that there were a number of reported problems and irregularities in Kailahun, Pujehun and Moyamba districts that the Mission would encourage the National Electoral Commission to investigate rigorously with the same degree of transparency and openness it has shown so far to ensure these elections fully reflect the people’s will.
The EU observers state also that the irregularities included incidents where voters’ turnout was in excess of the number of registered voters in polling stations and in other polling stations an excessive number of additions to the voters’ registers.
The observers also maintain that, “APC also faced problems deploying their party agents in Kailahun district partly due to intimidation and threats.”
The EU observers relate that the opening and polling procedures that were observed in 388 polling stations improved in comparison to the first round as there were some regional differences in the electoral process with procedures smoother in the north and more complex in the east and the southern provinces.
The EU preliminary report however holds that in all of these, NEC has continued to act in a transparent and impartial manner and that they have managed to maintain the confidence of key stakeholders and voters throughout the election process.
But the press comes under condemnation, as SLBS radio and TV were indicted for giving the SLPP over 70% coverage over the APC.
The observers’ report also fingers the Awareness Times newspaper, Unity (SLPP) and We Yone (APC) as publishing unsubstantiated allegations concerning the veracity of election preparations for the second round as well as criticizing the international community’s assistance to NEC, which risked fuelling levels of mistrust in the electoral process amongst readers.
The chief observer of the EU mission says that, “this period will be crucial to the successful conclusion of these elections if all parties will remain committed to peace and democracy, if all parties patiently await the results as they are issued by NEC in the forthcoming period and respect the law.”