Sierra Leone vote peaceful, well conducted: European Union
(FREETOWN) - European Union election observers said Monday that Sierra Leone's general election had been peaceful and well conducted, with an extremely high turnout, but noted an unequal playing field for contestants.
"We say this was a peaceful and well-conducted election," said EU chief observer Richard Howitt at a press conference on the mission's preliminary findings in the capital Freetown.
"There was a widespread fear of violence, there were some small, isolated incidents but campaigning and polling day themselves were largely calm and peaceful," said the leader of the 100-strong mission.
He welcomed messages of non-violence from party leaders as the nation braced for results from its third election since the end of a brutal 11-year war in 2002.
"We hope the parties will ensure that all their supporters keep to the commitment of non-violence as the results become known. The winners as well as the losers."
However observers raised concern about an unequal playing field throughout the campaign period, which was dominated by the ruling All People's Congress (APC) and Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP).
"APC clearly benefited from the advantages of incumbency by making use of state resources, also enjoyed more media coverage and clearly had more financial resources for campaigning."
Other criticisms were a lack of adequate voter education, and the "disappointing" fact that only 11 percent of women contesting parliamentary polls were women.
Observer teams from the Carter Centre, Commonwealth and African Union were also due to give their early reports on Monday.
Concerns are high for the risk of violence as results are announced and political parties have urged their parties to remain calm until the National Electoral Commission makes the final outcome known, before Saturday.