Finally, Sierra Leone will go to the polls today, 24th of June 23, 2023, despite the crisis that preceded the process. The Elections Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) says everything is in place for the smooth conduct of the polls. Liberian Journalist, Lyndon Ponnie covering the elections in Freetown, reports.
3.4 million Sierra Leoneans will cast their votes tomorrow for a new president. This will be the fifth election since the brutal 10-year civil war — and it is expected to follow the peaceful and somewhat democratic nature of its four predecessors. The Elections Commission of Sierra Leone says all hurdles to the holding of the elections have been removed and that all was set to conduct the polls.
Two familiar candidates are competing to lead this country of 8.4 million people. The incumbent, President Julius Maada Bio, is seeking re-election and has promised to prioritize improving access to public education and boosting agricultural production.
Samura Kamara, the runner-up in the last presidential election of 2018, is the other candidate for the nation’s top role. This is actually a replay of the 2018 polls.
Observers from around the world including the United States, European Union, Commonwealth, ECOWAS and the Mano River Union are on ground to observe the process.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat approved the deployment of a short-term African Union Election Observation Mission to assess and report on the conduct of this election. The team has already arrived in Freetown.
Bread and butter issues are amongst the contentious debate of Sierra Leoneans. Before the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, inflation was on the rise in Sierra Leone, with the annual percentage increase in prices in 2018 reaching 19%, according to Statistics Sierra Leone.
But in recent years, the inflation rate increased from 16.65% in January 2022 to 43.05% in April 2023, about 159% increase in prices. Prices of goods and services have been largely pegged to the US Dollar which has appreciated in value against the Sierra Leonean Leone by 85% over the same period, according to the Bank of Sierra Leone.
With less than twenty-four hours to polling day in Sierra Leone, a unique citizen-led independent opinion poll of almost 7,000 potential voters nationwide, shows that almost one-third of voters are staying tight-lipped about their voting intentions, and suggests that a run-off between the incumbent – President Maada Bio and his main challenger – Dr Samura Kamara is still possible.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph reported that the Sierra Leone 2023 Elections Opinion Poll was designed and implemented by Meraki Analytics SL Limited in collaboration with consortium partners– Data Mansah and SierraEye Magazine. Despite challenges, including being prevented by community leaders from conducting interviews in several locations, it is the largest national survey of registered voters in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone has a multi-party system, with two or three strong parties. Both the president and the members of Parliament are elected for five-year terms. The Parliament has 124 members, 112 elected through plurality vote in single-member constituencies and 12 members elected by indirect vote.
President Maada Bio has called on his supporters to turn out in full to give him a second term. The main opposition leader, Dr. Samura Kamara has urged his supporters to win in the first ballots. He said Sierra Leoneans were suffering and needed to make that known to Bio using their votes.