The Election Observer Network Sierra Leone (EON-SL) has issued a preliminary statement on their findings regarding the June 24th, 2023 elections.

According to EON-SL, the pre-election observation assessment from its long-term observers reported a relatively peaceful atmosphere during campaigns and voting day preparation, despite high underlying tension due to consistent political disagreement between the two major political parties on one hand, and between the main opposition party and the Election Management Bodies on the other hand. They stated that this tension was compounded by harsh campaign messages and the uncontrolled and improper use of social media platforms.

Concerning election day, it was stated that there was a considerable delay in opening and commencing polling at certain centers due to various logistic challenges, such as the late arrival of polling staff and materials, and the late setting up of centers/stations.

Respect for secrecy was another concern raised, as it was indicated that adequate provisions were not made at all stations to maintain secrecy during the casting of votes.

“The makeshift corners with a piece of cloth were grossly inadequate. For example, the station where the President voted was as bad as any other place despite efforts by personnel to improve it. Similarly, the main opposition leader also cast his vote under similar conditions, in a vase but cramped place. Privacy was grossly compromised in most centers in the Western Area.”

The concern of overcrowding and congestion at centers was also raised, stating that it was beyond imagination why ECSL would allow unnecessary congestion at certain centers.

“At the Hockey pitch (a location with a vast expanse of open space), 14 stations were cramped in one section of the place, leaving two-thirds of the field empty.”

According to the report, there was improper scrutiny at the polling stations, as personnel had little or no time to properly scrutinize observers and others around the polling centers, as people were moving in and around centers indiscriminately.

The release continued that voter turnout was huge, though they are yet to receive accurate figures from ECSL. It also stated that the weather was very favorable, which encouraged people to go out in good numbers to vote.

The release also mentioned the intermittent station announcement of results by radio stations, especially the Independent Radio Network (IRN), which they said can be confusing since it does not give the aggregate of the center, which might have several stations.

EON commends all Sierra Leoneans for their fine comportment on voting day, adding that though the 2023 elections took place against a backdrop of extreme tension and suspicion on the part of voters, political parties, the security sector, and even the Election Management Bodies, fortunately, the election went relatively well.

“Though there were isolated incidents of disorder and chaos that led to severe distress, none of which, however, halted the process.”

“Centers/stations that commenced late were permitted to complete the exercise well after the authorized closing time.”

It was stated that “EON notes with satisfaction that democracy is stabilizing in Sierra Leone since, on average, there were no major issues.”

The release concludes by admonishing all Sierra Leoneans to be patient until the appropriate authority, ECSL, releases the authentic election results.