11/17/2012 02:08 EST | Updated 01/17/2013 05:12 EST

Landmark Sierra Leone election sees high turnout

Voting was largely peaceful Saturday in landmark national elections in Sierra Leone, a decade after the West African country emerged from a brutal civil war.

There were glitches at voting centres in the capital, Freetown, where the polls were supposed to open at 7 a.m. local time but some didn't start handing out ballots until 10 a.m.

The delays frustrated people who had lined up outside overnight to be among the first to mark their choices, the CBC's Kimberly Gale.

"I've been at polling stations across the capital of Freetown today," Gale said. "Some are quiet and very peaceful, others are very unorganized with a lot of pushing and shouting."

But so far there has been no significant violence — which had been a concern. Pregnant women and mothers with infants were being ushered to the front of long voting lines, helping alleviate concerns about intimidation against female participation in the democratic process.

Voters are choosing a president, parliamentarians, municipal councillors and mayors in Sierra Leone's third elections since it's horrific, 11-year civil war ended in 2002. It's the first time the country is running the election on its own; the last two were managed by the United Nations.

The country's electoral commission made strong efforts to get out young voters, who make up a large share of the electorate, and it showed in Saturday's high turnout.

Results won't be known for 10 days.

Similar platforms

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma is seeking re-election after he won office in 2007 on promises to help uplift the diamond-rich nation. His supporters point to strides made in the country's healthcare system through a program offering free medical aid.

The opposition, though, says that more needs to be done, and some frustrated voters said they were backing former military leader Julius Maada Bio.

In all, 10 parties are in the running, but Gale cautioned that it doesn't mean there's a wide array of policy choices.

"There's not much of a diverse political landscape, with most candidates making similar promises in terms of infrastructure, improving electricity and water supply," she said.

And while efforts have been made to help women get out to vote, female candidates running for parliament still face major hurdles. Only 38 women are running for a seat compared with 538 men, and the campaign trail has seen sometimes nasty attempts to intimidate some female candidates.

Most of the country's nearly six million people live on less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank statistics, and life remains especially difficult for the estimated 2,000 people who were seriously maimed during the war.

Tens of thousands died during the 1991-2002 conflict.