As counting gets under way in earnest following Sierra Leone's presidential run-off on Saturday, Commonwealth observers have said the election was 'credible and transparent'.
Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group John Dramani Mahama is appealing to Sierra Leoneans to continue to engage in the democratic process with the spirit of peace and orderliness which has characterized both the run-off presidential vote and the first round of Sierra Leone’s 2018 elections.
In an interim statement outlining the group’s observation up to the voting and counting of ballots on 31 March, Mr Mahama said Sierra Leoneans had demonstrated continued determination to exercise their right to vote despite a lengthy and complicated process.
“The Commonwealth Observer Group once again commends the people of Sierra Leone for their patience and commitment to exercise their franchise, which clearly reflected a genuine desire for a credible electoral process,” said Mr Mahama.
The run-off election between the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) were originally slated for March 27 but an interim injunction from the High Court resulted in elections being stalled.
Although the injunction was later lifted, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said due to the delay it was no longer able to deliver elections on March 27. The run-off election was rescheduled to March 31 with the Supreme Court’s permission.
“Our overall conclusion is that the voting, closing and counting processes at the polling stations were credible and transparent,” said Mr Mahama.
He added: “Where there were anomalies in the application of certain procedures, they were not of such gravity as to negatively impact the credibility of the closing and counting process.”
Mr. Mahama commended the NEC for its professionalism, diligence and consistency in delivering another well- managed and credible process on the day of voting, and commended the electoral body for implementing new guidelines and procedures despite logistical and administrative challenges.
He expressed the Commonwealth’s hope and expectation that the same spirit of peace and order which Sierra Leoneans have demonstrated so far, will prevail as the country enters the results phase of the electoral process.
“Sierra Leone has committed itself to certain democratic values and principles contained in the national, regional, Commonwealth and international obligations it has chosen to subscribe to,” Mr Mahama said.
“We urge all political parties, candidates and their supporters to respect the will of the people of Sierra Leone as it emerges over the next few days. We also urge them to refrain from making any utterances and/or performing acts that could exacerbate tensions and negatively affect the post-election environment.
“Elections are naturally a competitive process; there must be a winner and loser. However, they are not an 'end all' event. The will and interests of the people, as well as the stability and peace of the nation should always be paramount.”
Commonwealth observers were deployed in four of the five provinces of Sierra Leone to observe the pre-election environment, election preparations, the voting, counting and results process on election day.