Media practitioners were yesterday mesmerized when the chairman of the European Parliament delegation, Martin Callanan expressed surprise at spotting queues outside the Vice President Berewa’s Lodge where, according to them “… it appears that money is being distributed.”
Mr Callanan explained that though the mission did not witness the distribution of money to members of the queue at the VP’s lodge “[they] have a number of credible sources within the international community and from local Sierra Leoneans that money was being given.”
Speaking to journalists at the Bintumani auditorium, the chairman explained that, “during our stay here we noted comments on the ruling party’s tendency to use the advantages of their position for campaign purposes, [such as] access to state controlled media and influence over traditional leaders”.
He also maintained that undue media coverage was given to the ruling party by the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Station (SLBS).
In spite of the extremely competitive atmosphere and the strong language used in the early stages of the campaign, Mr Callanan explained, “we were very impressed by the friendly behaviour of the political party agents who worked side by side, with the domestic observers, and in this way contributed to general sense of national unity and a common democratic spirit.”
However, the chairman stated that the European Union Observation Mission to Sierra Leone EU EOM, which comprises members of the European Parliament from seven member states, covered 40 polling centres and 90 polling stations during elections day.
He heightened that they were “very impressed by the manner in which the elections on Saturday took place.”
The chairman accentuated that, “…the delegation welcomes the enthusiasm of voters exhibited during elections day,” noting that they showed their determination to cast their votes and readiness to do so in a peaceful and orderly manner.
Mr Callanan maintained that, the EU delegation was impressed by the efficiency and commitment of the polling station staff to fulfill their duties in an accurate and transparent manner, in precise accordance with the procedures laid down.
In her executive summary, the EU EOM chief observer Marie Anne Isler Bguin maintained that the polling was generally conducted in a professional manner, noting that even though polling staff were faced with challenges due to logistical difficulties poor weather and infrastructure.
She however pointed out that there were inconsistencies with the electoral law, including the failure to provide party agents copies of the result forms.
Though there were isolated cases of violence, the chief observer emphasized “the polling procedures were generally well supervised and the presence of large numbers of national observers and party agents aided the transparency of [the] process.”
By Ophaniel T. Gooding