Voting kicked off slowly on Saturday in Sierra Leone’s rescheduled presidential run-off election to choose the country’s 5th President since its independence from Britain in 1961.
Official voting time is from 7.am to 5 pm (GMT). Some voters were already on the queue before the official opening time at the Freetown’s Aberdeen Municipal Primary School Polling Centre, the first stop by Prof Amos Sawyer, Head of ECOWAS Observation Mission and his team.
The Centre has nine polling stations including one for supplementary list, to cover party agents and security personnel on election duties, part of measures under an agreement between the National Electoral Commission and the two political parties to guard against over-voting, which was a source of dispute during the first round of the general polls on March 7.
The first voter at the Aberdeen station, cast his ballot by 7.05 am at the first polling station after the formalities, and activities picked up as the process progressed with party agents and security personnel in place.
The situation was similar at the Kroo Court House Polling Centre with 10 polling stations. By 8.15am more than 20 voters had voted at one of the stations.
The process was faster at St John’s Secondary School polling centre also with 10 polling stations, where 48 voters had cast their ballots by 8.35 am at polling station 9.
Unlike during the first round, the queues were not that long this time round, which could be due to voter apathy. Voter turn-out was more than 84% in the first round with 2.6 million voters of the 3.17 million registered voters casting their ballots.
There were slight showers of rain Saturday morning, which some voters described as “showers of blessing.”
On his assessment, Prof Sawyer, accompanied by the ECOWAS Director of Political Affairs Dr Remi Ajibewa, said it was “still very early,” adding: “so far, the process is slow but peaceful and orderly.”
He said there was also an improvement in the exercise and expressed his optimism that all will go well.
The run-off contest is between rtd Brig. Julius Maada Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Dr Samura Kamara of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to replace out-going President Ernest Bai Koroma, who is ineligible having completed his constitutionally allowed two terms of five years each.