Sierra Leoneans will have a second chance to decide who leads them. A run off election is in the cards.
Although the candidate of Sierra Leone’s major opposition Sierra Leon’s People’s Party (SLPP) won the first round of the country’s Presidential vote, he did not break the 55% required threshold to win out right. This sets the stage for a 2 person runoff in two weeks between former military officer Julius Maada Bio of the SLPP and candidate of the ruling All Peoples (Congress (APC), former foreign minister Samura Kamara.
SLPP candidate Maado Bio carried the first round with 43.3% of the vote against the ruling party candidate Kamara at 42.7%.
An analysis of the first round of support for the two candidates shows a country divided between maintaining the status quo and the desire to rebuild the country and move out of poverty. The elections have been deemed generally credible by international observers.
A statement from the country’s election body says, “…following counting and tallying, the number of invalid votes cast at the Presidential election on 7th March, 2018 was 139,427. The number of valid votes was 2,537,122…”
In announcing the date of the runoff elections set for March 27th, the country’s elections chairperson, said the two highest vote getters from the ruling APC and SLPP will contest for the office of President in balloting to be held nationwide in the West African nation.
In the lead up to its fourth democratic elections, the West African country of Sierra Leone’s electoral body, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has released the provisional list of nominated candidates for the March 7th Presidential Election.
In a release signed by Chairman Mohamed Nfah Alie Conteh and issued on Monday in the capital Freetown, the NEC announced a a final list of 16 political parties cleared to contest and include:
Samura Kamara (APC),
Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray (ADP)
Samuel Sam-Sumana (C4C)
Alhaji Musa Tarawallie (CDP)
Mohamed C. Bah (NDA)
Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella (NGC)
Patrick John O’Dwyer (NPD),
Jonathan Patrick Sandy (NURP)
Kandeh Baba Conteh (PLP)
Charles Francis Margai (PMDC)
Beresford Victor Williams (RNIP)
Gbandi Jemba Ngobeh (RUFP)
Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio (SLPP)
Mohamed Turay Sowa (UDM)
Henry saa Kubata (UNPP) and
Josephine O. Claudius-Cole (UP)
The two major political parties are the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) which was founded in 1951 and now led by incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma and the current opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) which was also founded during the colonial era in 1948. President Koroma is constitutionally ineligible to stand for re-election after serving 2 five-year terms since 2007.
The ruling APC’s candidate is Dr. Samura Kamara, a former foreign minister while the SLPP’s Presidential candidate is a retired military officer Mr. Julius Maada Bio. The much lesser known and smaller political parties are seeking to make strong parliamentary gains in order to establish leverage when the political horse-trading and negotiation kick in for support from the two major parties. Supporters of the ruling APC party candidate says Mr. Kamara is better suited to lead the country given his international diplomatic experience while supporters of the opposition SLPP candidate – the retired military officer say he is disciplined and best positioned to lead.
Last December, the Koroma Administration intervened to subsidize the nomination fees for elective offices of President, Members of Parliament, Mayor and Local Council. The NEC at the time announced that, ” … as a result of the intervention of the Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) through a letter dated 5th December, 2017, to the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency, the President has approved rthat the Government will absorb the difference in costs between the proposed revised fees outlined in the signed political parties resolution and the current fee contained in the Statutory Instrument No. 13 of 2012…”
Meantime, the US. Embassy in Sierra Leone has warned against growing election violence following a recent rampage by supporters of the ruling APC. One person was reportedly killed. According to a statement issued by the American diplomatic mission in Freetown, it said, “The U.S. Embassy is concerned about recent reports of violence and loss of life. We extend deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We appeal to all Sierra Leoneans to remain peaceful and respect the democratic process. While this is a time to engage in political activity, exchanges should be civil, and take place in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect…”
The statement further said,”…The U.S. Embassy urges all parties and candidates to reiterate to their constituents their commitment to a non-violent, law abiding and peaceful democratic process.”
In adding its voice to the call for a peaceful election, Amnesty International (AI) on Friday, said, “Next month’s elections in Sierra Leone are another landmark moment, as the country recovers from the devastating Ebola outbreak, and there is no doubt that there will be vibrant rallies and passionate debate.”
Amnesty further noted that, “there is an essential role for the authorities to play in ensuring that every Sierra Leonean can participate in these elections, speaking out freely and assembling peacefully, in full safety.”
According to the NEC calendar, political campaigning starts on February 4 – March 5. There is a one day cooling off period on March 6th with no campaigning and polling date is March 7th. If no candidate wins outright, a run off poll will be conducted between March 24th – 28th between the two candidates with the highest votes.
In a separate development, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it is suspending financing to the Sierra Leone government for its failure to meet key budget outlook and growth targets. Following a development economic performance review last September in Freetown, the IMF concluded that it is “…currently working with the government to identify appropriate corrective measures that can be taken and when.”
Sierra Leone’s electoral body says there are about 3.1 million registered voters out of a population of a little over 7 million.