The Mission noted that the polling day processes unfolded peacefully and orderly. The Mission also reported late opening at 38.9% (7) of the polling stations visited. However, voting began at no later than 7:30AM except for mayoral election at isolated places in Bonthe. The late opening was largely due to the late set-up of polling stations by officials and in one case, the late arrival of polling materials (ballot boxes, presiding officer’s journal) at the Any Barray Court polling center in Bonthe.
All 16 teams of AU observers reported a peaceful environment inside and outside the polling stations with the exception of one (1) in Kroo House 16163 polling centre, Western Urban, where poor crowd control and visible campaign materials near the perimeter of the station was reported.
It could be recalled that the African Union deployed 40 observers including 8 long term observers who will continue to remain in the country to observe post-election developments.
The AU observers reported that 88.9% (16) of the polling stations were easily accessible for the elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs) while 11.1% were not due to stairs or uneven platforms leading to the polling station.
Ballot boxes were sealed correctly in every station where the Mission observed the opening; (in full view of party agents and observers).
The AU observers noted that the layout of the polling stations promoted an orderly voting and secrecy of the ballot. However, the AUEOM noted congestion of voters outside some polling centers and proximity of some polling stations in a given center thereby making it difficult for voters to identify their allocated stations.
No forms of irregularity were observed during the voting process except the case where ballot papers were not placed in the ballot boxes by the voters themselves. Rather it was the Ballot Controlling Officers who were collecting the ballot papers from the voters and placing them in the ballot boxes after folding. This occurred at Kulafai Rashideen Primary School polling center, Western Urban, Western Region.
Meanwhile, the communiqué contained a list of recommendations. To the Government:
• To consider appropriate affirmative action measures, including quotas, to enhance women’s participation in the elective process.
To Security Agencies
• To ensure security measures such as restriction of vehicular movement on Election Day does not affect the participation of voters in the electoral process.
To the National Electoral Commission:
• To undertake measures to reinforce training of polling personnel;
• To review the voter education campaigns conducted for the 2018 elections and incorporate lessons to improve future elections;
• Calls on NEC to conduct the ongoing tallying process in an effective and transparent manner; and
• Regularly inform the people on the tallying process to avoid misinformation; as well as expedite announcement of results to prevent anxiety.
To political parties and candidates:
• To refrain from using intemperate language and other forms of intimidation during the electoral process;
• To exercise restraint in their pronouncements and actions as they await the completion of the tallying process;
• To channel any disputes regarding the electoral outcomes through the appropriate legal channels as per the Sierra Leonean legal framework; and
• To create conditions to foster women’s access to leadership positions within political parties.
However, a final detailed report will be released by the AU observer team upon the conclusion of the electoral process.
The AUEOM concluded that the 2018 general elections were generally conducted in line with the national legal framework as well as the regional, continental and international standards for democratic elections.