Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vote date set in Sierra Leone

Freetown - Sierra Leone's elections chief on Friday ruled out changing the already re-scheduled date for presidential and legislative elections despite opposition demands.

Opposition and civil society groups have been lobbying for polling - originaly set for July 28, but moved back two weeks - to be pushed to December citing unfavourable weather conditions at the scheduled time.

"I agree that rains would affect turnout as has been postulated by the public but we have no alternative as we are bound by the constitution," said head of the national elections commission Christiana Thorpe.

She said the law does not allow parliamentary polls to be held more than three months after the legislature is dissolved. Parliament is to be dissolved end of June.

Voting date was moved to August 11 to give lawmakers more time for the electoral campaign.

Opposition and civil society groups have slammed the decision to delay the elections arguing the new date falls in the peak of the rain season which would probably make it difficult for voters to reach polling stations.

Elections in the west African country have traditionally been held in May, before the onset of the rains.

Thorpe said more voting locations would be set up to ease the strain on voters travelling long distances to cast their ballots.

The elections are expected to serve as a crucial test of the west African country's democratic credentials and establish whether it is on the road to full recovery after a 10-year brutal civil war.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who is nearing the end of his two terms, is not eligible for re-election.

Link to Vote date set in Sierra Leone: Africa: News: News24