President Julius Maada Bio is in search of a second time period amid a crippling cost-of-living disaster that sparked lethal riots final 12 months.
Twelve males and one girl are vying for the highest job, although Bio’s foremost challenger is Samura Kamara of the All Individuals’s Congress (APC).
Bio, 59, of the Sierra Leone Individuals’s Get together (SLPP), narrowly beat Kamara, who’s aged 72, in a runoff in 2018.
Polling stations have been scheduled to open at 7:00 am and shut at 5:00 pm (1700 GMT), however many stations within the capital Freetown opened late, AFP journalists noticed.
By 5:40 pm (1740 GMT), tallying had begun on the Aberdeen Police Station in Freetown, AFP journalists noticed.
Many stations have been more likely to stay open longer, after the electoral fee confirmed in an announcement that each one voters in queue at 5:00 pm can be allowed to vote.
“Polling is occurring in a comparatively peaceable method,” the fee mentioned in an announcement. “There have been logistical challenges in some polling centres regarding the late arrival of supplies.”
After casting his poll on the Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown on Saturday morning, Bio inspired residents to take part peacefully.
“Exit and vote — it’s your proper,” he mentioned. “Vote safely. If you happen to win, have a good time safely.”
Kamara voted within the Freetown neighbourhood of Lumley, telling reporters that “This election is about the way forward for Sierra Leone”.
However he mentioned the polling station — which opened greater than two hours late, an AFP journalist noticed — was “congested”.
“Don’t be stunned if there’s confusion,” he mentioned.
Kamara has for weeks lambasted the electoral fee for alleged bias in favour of the governing celebration.
Nationwide Election Watch, a coalition of civil society teams, mentioned 84% of the polling stations it was observing had opened by 8:00 am.
Nonetheless, solely 59% of stations within the Freetown space had opened by that point.
Two AFP journalists arrived at a polling station in central Freetown on Saturday afternoon the place voting was simply getting underway. A soldier current instructed AFP voting had began at 2:00 pm.
“I’m so impressed by the resilience and fortitude of… voters — a lot of whom stood in line for hours within the scorching solar to train their proper to vote,” US Ambassador David Reimer mentioned on Twitter.
Sierra Leone, nonetheless recovering from the West Africa Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016, was once more hit onerous by the Covid pandemic and the fallout of Russia’s warfare in Ukraine.
Yr-on-year inflation within the nation hit 43% in April.
Within the Kroo Bay slum, a protracted queue of voters snaked alongside a rubbish-filled stream towards a polling station that had solely partially opened by 9:00 am.
“There’s an excessive amount of hardship, not sufficient to eat, inflation is just too excessive,” mentioned Issa Bangura, a 48-year-old business driver queueing to vote there. “We’re struggling, so I would like change.”
Mohamed Waritay, a 27-year-old safety guard, mentioned he was voting for Bio due to his investments in training and healthcare.
Bio “constructed a hospital in my village with 100 beds”, Waritay mentioned.
Bio tipped to win
Some 3.4 million persons are registered to vote, 52.4% of whom are underneath 35 years previous, based on an electoral fee spokesman.
Candidates should safe 55% of legitimate votes for a first-round win.
Voters will even elect members of parliament and native councils. Underneath a not too long ago handed gender act, a 3rd of all candidates should be ladies.
Many Sierra Leoneans vote based mostly on regional allegiances, as jobs and advantages are generally perceived to move to areas whose politicians are in energy.
Bio, a former coup chief within the Nineteen Nineties, has championed training and ladies’s rights in his first civilian time period.
Kamara, a former international and finance minister, is going through a protracted trial over allegations that he misappropriated public funds as international minister, a case he says is politically motivated.
A June 14 ballot by the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) forecast that Bio would win 56% of the vote, with 43% for Kamara.
One other ballot, performed by the newspaper Sierra Eye and two native knowledge teams, forecasts 38% for the incumbent and 25% for Kamara.
The elections are being intently adopted in West Africa, a area not too long ago dominated by coups and turmoil.
Final August, riots left not less than 27 civilians and 6 law enforcement officials lifeless.
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