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November 15, 2012

Sierra Leone Aspires to Hold Transparent, Credible Elections

by VOA News

Sierra Leone's election commission is taking steps to ensure Saturday's general election is transparent and credible, while working with police and political parties to prevent violence related to the vote.

National Electoral Commission spokesman Albert Massaquoi told VOA's English-to-Africa service that the commission has been meeting regularly with political parties to address any concerns.  His comments came after some in Sierra Leone expressed fears that pre-election political activities could create tension and violence.

“As a result of the experiences of past elections, the commission, in collaboration with these parties and the Sierra Leone police, has actually drawn [up] a polling day activity wherein vehicular movement activities would be restricted so that people can vote within their wards in their communities and go home early," Massaquoi said.

Eight candidates are challenging incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma, who took office in 2007 after winning a tightly contested runoff election.  Voters will also elect members of Sierra Leone's parliament.

Massaquoi also said the commission is working to announce election results more quickly than in the past and that he expects to have the totals finalized within a few days.

The U.S.-based Carter Center is monitoring the election and has expressed concerns about inadequate voter education, mainly at the local level.

Massaquoi said the election commission has utilized the media, local civic groups and sample ballots to try to boost voter education and has asked the political parties, themselves, to help in that effort.

"They should in as much as it is their right to do a lot of campaigns, to rally around in the streets, but if they are to redirect their campaign strategies into electoral education it would be of help," Massaquoi said.

He said the election commission has already begun distributing election materials to polling stations throughout the country and has recruited 70,000 staffers to help with the vote.