Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 June 2023:
After a late start this morning, over three million registered voters are lining up in long queues at polling stations across Sierra Leone to decide whether President Bio deserves to be re-elected for another five years.
Despite promises by the Electoral Commission that polling stations will open at 7am, most stations in the capital Freetown – an opposition stronghold, and in many parts of the country were three hours late to open. As we go to press – 11am this morning, many stations are still closed with queues of people waiting to exercise their constitutional right.
Millions of voters have been out since 5am today making their way to local polling stations, in what is expected to be a very high turnout.
Most markets in the capital are closed this morning as traders head to the polling stations.
At about 9.45 this morning our reporter covering polling station 16274 at Elliott Street in Congo Town, Freetown, said that the polling station was closed, and voters were feeling agitated.
In some polling stations, there were no ballot papers in sight. In the Freetown Secondary Schools for Girls Polling Station, party agents are reported to be “demanding electoral officials to produce missing ballot papers, as only 200 of the 300 expected ballot papers were delivered to the station by ECSL.
There are no reports of violence so far in the country after weeks of tense and sometimes violent campaigning and rallying, although the main opposition APC yesterday complained of its supporters being intimidated and violently assaulted in the ruling party stronghold across the south and eastern Sierra Leone, especially in Kailahun, Bo and Kenema.
Yesterday President Bio made this final appeal to voters to secure his second term in office. This is what he said:
“Fellow Sierra Leoneans, Members of the SLPP, and our Alliance Partners, the love and support from everyone have been overwhelming these past 30 days as we campaigned to the electorate.
“I would like to say a very big thank you for the great efforts in taking our SLPP people’s manifesto 2023 to the good people of Sierra Leone in every village, town, district and province since we launched the people’s manifesto on May 23rd 2023.
“Our message of #hope, #peace, #unity, #progress and #prosperity has continued to resonate with the people across the country, who are enthusiastic about the coming elections. We’ve worked tirelessly to spur economic development and social progress over the last 5 years to improve the quality of life of citizens.
“We’ve campaigned extensively across our nation over the last month and shared tangible evidence and results from the past 5 years. Now we must collectively go out on Saturday, June 24, 2023, to exercise our constitutional rights of voting for continued progress in Mama Sa Lone. Your vote matters for our #Norunoff Agenda.
STEP 1: Go early to your Polling Center (the centre where you registered to vote) with your ECSL Voter Registration Card.
STEP 2: Wait patiently and peacefully for your turn to vote for JULIUS MAADA BIO AND THE SLPP for sustainable transformation of Sierra Leone.
STEP 3: After you rightfully cast your vote and exit your Polling Station remain law-abiding and peaceful throughout the elections period as NO ONE is above the law. With GOD on our side, VICTORY is ours! Thank you and God bless us all,” he said.
President Bio will need to poll at least 55% of the votes today, if he is to avoid a runoff. In 2018, he failed to secure 55% majority which led to a runoff and then won by a small margin of about 3% at the second round.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph predicts that the SLPP will have a majority in parliament after the elections because of the District Block voting system introduced by President Bio. But there is every chance the opposition APC may win the Presidential election.
Voters in Freetown, Kono, Bombali, Port Loko, Koinadugu, Kambia and Tonkolili districts will today decide whether Bio stays in office or not, as the opposition APC is expected to perform strongly in those areas.
Will voters ignore the fact that over 100 of their fellow citizens have been gunned down in cold blood under the watch of President Bio since he was elected in 2018, and an economy left in ruins; or will they show him the door?