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Polls Close in Sierra Leone City Elections - 2004-05-22


Polls closed in Sierra Leone's municipal elections Saturday, with no incidents of violence reported. The country's first local elections in more than three decades.

Turnout was reported low at most polling stations in Sierra Leone Saturday, but there were no reports of violence or intimidation.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who voted near his official residence in Freetown, said this was a sign his nation was moving away from the violence, civil wars and instability that plagued his country for the past three decades.

"This means that we really are there, as far as violence is concerned. We now have it behind us. We Sierra Leoneans have agreed to resolve our problems peacefully and by discussion through the legal means, if necessary," he said.

But there were problems. In six out of more than 300 wards, ballot papers had misidentified the party to which the candidates belonged, so voting there has been postponed until next month.

Sierra Leonean observer Olayinka Creighton-Randall says not having the picture of candidates on the ballots was also a problem.

"In one of the stations I was at, one of the candidates was extremely upset, because, apparently, the way the master sheet was supposed to display the pictures was supposed to be in the same order as the ballot paper. But in that station, that didn't happen. So, he felt that was extremely confusing to especially illiterate voters, who were expecting to see the pictures as they were on the master sheet," he said.

Overall, however, she says the vote seems to have been free and fair, despite complaints by the main opposition All People's Congress.

The ruling Sierra Leone's Peoples party, which won a majority in parliament two years ago, is expected to win the most seats in the 19 district and town councils up for grabs Saturday. But independent candidates and the opposition All People's Congress are also hoping to gain substantial local representation.

The results of the elections are expected to be announced on Monday.

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