Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Two-week delay sought for Sierra Leone polls

Freetown - Authorities in Sierra Leone are proposing a two-week postponement of elections scheduled for July 28 because the West African country needs more time to prepare, the chief election officer said on Monday.
The upcoming presidential and legislative elections will be a test of political stability in the former British colony, which is still recovering from a brutal 1991-2002 civil war.
Chief Electoral Commissioner Christiana Thorpe told Reuters the electoral authorities wanted the vote to be held on August 11.
She said they needed more time to increase the number of polling stations for Sierra Leone's more than 2,6 million registered voters.

'We need two weeks' extra time to prepare well'

"We need two weeks' extra time to prepare well," Thorpe said. "We've asked to provide more voting centres because of the rains that are coming."
The National Electoral Commission is expected to formally announce the postponement this week.
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who was re-elected in 2002 at the end of the civil war, had set the July 28 date for the polls, which will pick his successor as he is constitutionally barred from standing.
It will be the first time a Sierra Leone president has voluntarily handed over power since the war broke out in 1991.
The opening of more polling stations will mean voters in remote upcountry areas will have to travel shorter distances to cast ballots. Seasonal rains in Sierra Leone have begun, but the heaviest deluges are usually in July and August.
The country's parliament is legally bound to sit until June 25, and this also gives little time to prepare for the elections, which will appoint a new assembly.
Kabbah's vice-president, Solomon Berewa, is among the candidates standing for president, but he has yet to choose a running mate.

Link to IOL: Two-week delay sought for Sierra Leone polls