The vote count remains under way in Sierra Leone, where election officials report a relatively smooth process – but there’s no results so far, and at least some disputes over just how well the election went.
“Because we value accuracy above speed, there may be times when the tally takes longer. We will not announce results until every last one is counted. Please be patient and peaceful,” said Mohamed Conteh, chairman of the National Election Commission, during a Freetown media briefing on Thursday.
A statement issued by the NEC said there were few irregularities with Wednesday’s voting, although they noted a problem with 0.2 percent of the sealed boxes containing paper ballots received from polling stations around the nation. The five tally centers are in Freetown, as well as Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Port Loko.
It will be several days before the votes are all counted and official results declared, Conteh said.
Meanwhile, the National Grand Coalition Party disputed the official NEC assessment. “The NGC and Coalition for Change have grave concerns that the results emerging will fail to reflect the will of the people of Sierra Leone,” the NGC said in a statement. “Our own internal checks reveal that the process does not reflect anything close to free, fair, transparent and credible polls.”
The NGC, the party of disputed presidential candidate Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, claimed their representatives were prevented from monitoring vote counts and removed from polling stations during “scuffles and fracas” that created a climate of fear and intimidation. Yumkella faced several challenges to his candidacy from the All People’s Congress (APC) party, which backs Samura Kamara to replace outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma.
There have been few reports of electoral violence, although police descended Wednesday on the headquarters of presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio and the Sierra Leone Peoples Party. Supporters briefly clashed with authorities before the situation – reportedly related to computer systems and hacking concerns – was defused.
Image: NEC Sierra Leone