Sierra Leoneans are trooping to the polling stations again on Saturday, March 31, 2018, to decide who should succeed President Ernest Bai Koroma, in a rescheduled runoff election.
The two candidates are Julius Maada Bio, a former military head of state, and a former foreign affairs minister Samura Kamara, the torchbearer for the ruling party.
Maada Bio who leads the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, SLPP, won the first round vote held on March 7.
Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress, APC, will be looking to overturn Maada Bio’s first-round victory. Incidentally two candidates who came third and fourth refused to back the two frontrunners.
Meanwhile, Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission, NEC, has reaffirmed its readiness to conduct the run-off without hitches.
Mohamed Conteh, the NEC Chairman, was quoted as making the assertion while speaking with ECOWAS Observation team in his office on Friday in Freetown.
In a statement by Paul Ejime, a member of the Mission, Conteh said:“at NEC we are prepared to deliver a credible election.
“ He confirmed that polling materials both sensitive and non-sensitive had been distributed to all the 16 Administrative Districts, except those in urban areas, which will be distributed hours before or on the Election Day.
Conteh added that the Commission was deploying some 63,000 permanent and ad-hoc staff across the 11,122 polling stations in 3,300 polling centres to serve the 3.17 million registered voters in the country with an estimated population of seven million.
The chairman said that the NEC has also met with officials of the two political parties contesting the presidential run-off, to agree on the modalities for counting of ballots, tallying and transmission of results from the district to regional and national levels.
This, according to him, is after the Commission’s preventive diplomacy consultation facilitated by Heads of international observation missions.
“Tallying will take place at the district level, certified by district officers with printouts given to political party agents.
“The certified results will then be transmitted to regional centres and then to the national office.
“The final national results will then be announced, according to districts.”
He commended Sierra Leoneans and political stakeholders for their patience, adding that the process was near completion.
The NEC chairman also said the tension between the Commission and the Sierra Leone Police, SLP, had been resolved with all sides agreeing that polling materials would be accompanied by police and security personnel.
He added that the two bodies also agreed that polling centres would also be manned by the security according to provisions of the electoral law.
He thanked ECOWAS, AU, EISA, Commonwealth, EU, UNDP and other development partners, and “especially our African brothers and sisters on observation missions” for their support.
On lessons learnt from the electoral process, the NEC Chair noted that given the country’s high illiteracy rate of about 60 per cent, there was the need for a robust voter education.