Sierra Leone Holds Peaceful General Elections
December 4, 2012
By: Ryan Mulvenna | Printer Friendly
On November 17, the incumbent Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bail Koroma won re-election and his All Peoples Congress (APC) party won a majority in the parliament. This election was the third general election since the end of Sierra Leone’s civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002 and resulted in over 50,000 deaths. It is also the first election that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has organized without significant input from the United Nations (UN).
NEC chairperson Christiana Thorpe announced the final results of the presidential election on November 23. Of the nine candidates for president, Koroma received just under 59 percent of the vote. His main opponent, Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), earned approximately 38 percent. According to Sierre Leone’s election laws, a presidential candidate must win a clear majority of at least 55 percent of the vote in order to be declared an outright winner and avoid a runoff election. As the incumbent, Koroma’s victory granted him a second (an anticipated final) term in office. Current election laws will not permit him to seek a third term.
The parliamentary results were announced on November 26 and 27. Ten parties participated in the parliamentary contest. Of the 112 seats in Parliament, 67 have been awarded to the APC, while the SLPP won 42 seats. The remaining three seats are currently undecided because of pending court challenges. The decision on one of these seats is further delayed due to the death of a candidate prior to the election. However, the SLPP accused the APC of ballot stuffing at some polling stations. In response, the NEC set aside roughly ten percent of the votes, which may need to be recounted. At this point, the NEC has not clarified whether these allegations apply to only the parliamentary results or whether they encompass the presidential results as well. On November 27, the SLPP called on party members in parliament and local government to boycott government proceedings until the results are investigated and confirmed. The party further demanded an independent international assessment of the electoral process.
Regardless of the SLPP claims, several international election monitoring teams, including representatives from the Carter Center and the European Union (EU), declared the election to be peaceful and transparent. Richard Howitt of the EU observation team noted that the general atmosphere on election day was peaceful, resulting in a smooth process. Ensuring a peaceful process was a major concern for election organizers, who did not want to repeat the violence that followed the 2007 elections. In an effort to prevent similar violence during this election cycle, precautionary measures were taken, including restricting transportation on main road to authorized vehicles while the polling stations were in operation. Additionally, political rallies during the campaign period were conducted on a carefully planned rotation so that rallies were not held by two different parties in the same city at the same time. This rotation was intended to prevent clashes between competing party supporters.
Although the process was deemed largely peaceful and transparent, observation teams made suggestions for improvements. Gregory Houel of the Carter Center observation team noted that the NEC should focus on improving the low level of voter education throughout the country, especially in terms of technical procedures. Many people could identify neither their assigned polling station nor the correct precinct. Even so, the peaceful proceedings of the election were widely understood to be significant.
Voter turnout was officially announced at 87.3 percent.
Associated Press (via Washington Post) – Ruling Party Wins Majority of Seats
Associated Press (via Washington Post) – Sierra Leone Opposition Orders Deputies in Parliament to Boycott
BBC – Sierra Leone: Ernest Bai Koroma Wins Presidential Poll
BBC – Sierra Leone Election: Votes Seized Over Fraud Claims
IFES – Sierra Leone’s Peaceful Election Is Another Step Forward
Voice of America – Sierra Leone Girds for Landmark Elections
Voice of America – Observers Praise Sierra Leone Elections