Sierra Leoneans will elect a new president on June 24, 2023, the Electoral Commission announced on Monday.
The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) made the announcement on Monday, bringing to an end months of speculations about the possible postponement of the polls.
Incumbent President Julius Maada Bio will be seeking re-election for a second and final five-year term, as per the Sierra Leonean constitution.
The announcement comes less than a week after the declaration of dates for legislative and local council elections. Voter Registration was also scheduled for 3rd September to 4th October 2022.
The National Elections Watch (NEW) welcomed the “timely” announcement, calling on the authorities to ensure proper public education ahead of the polls.
NEW is a coalition of local and international NGOs which monitors the electoral process to ensure that it’s free, fair and peaceful.
The local council elections were to be conducted this year, but they were postponed due to logistical reasons, according to the government.
Through a legislative amendment, the tenue of councils was extended to merge with the Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
While recognizing the “timely proclamations” of the election dates as best practice, NEW says it’s a first step towards ensuring credible, transparent and accountable electoral process.
“Voter Registration is an integral part of the electoral process and therefore requires special attention,” it states.
The runup to this day has been characterized by a public debate on how to acquire the voter register, vis-à-vis the role of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA). The government had said that the ECSL will extract its data from the NCRA’s database to develop its voter register, a proposal the opposition has a reservation with.
NEW calls on the authorities to publish the steps that are involved and scenarios expected at the Registration centres.
“NEW acknowledges the ongoing Electoral Legal Reforms by the various Election Management Bodies (EMBs), but is concerned about the timely conclusion of the processes to be effected for this electoral cycle,” it says, adding: “NEW therefore urges the ECSL, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), the Government of Sierra Leone, Parliament and other election stakeholders to conclude all processes six months to the dates of the elections in compliance with the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance,” it says.