8 March 2018

Sierra Leone: Elections in Sierra Leone - Population Awaits New Leaders

Some 16 contenders on March 7, 2018 ran for the presidency to replace Ernest Bai Koroma.

Sierra Leone's democracy received a boost on March 7, 2018 as voters went to the polls to choose a new President, Parliament, mayors and local government officials for the fourth time since the end of the civil war in 2002. A presidential candidate requires 55 per cent of votes cast to win in the first round vote. If no candidate makes the mark, a runoff vote will be scheduled.

Some 16 candidates - two of them women - stood for the presidency, though only three are believed to have any serious chances of replacing President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All Peoples' Congress, APC who has ended his two five-year tenure. Over 3.1 million people were registered to vote, a record number in the country's election annals.

Reports said queues formed outside polling stations as from midnight as people sought to cast their ballots as quickly as possible. In a statement on the eve, the National Electoral Commission, NEC, said it was ready to conduct "inclusive, peaceful and democratic" elections. "You do not have to be the biggest, the fastest or the strongest to determine the future of your country," NEC Chair, Mohamed Conteh noted.

The ruling All Peoples' Congress fielded former Foreign Minister Samura Kamara, 66; while a former military ruler, 53-year-old Julius Maada Bio - who lost the last election to Bai Koroma - ran for the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples' Party, SLPP. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, a 58-year-old agricultural economist, academic and former senior UN official, ran for the National Grand Coalition, NGC - a breakaway party from SLPP. He was Minister of Trade and Industry from 1994 to 1995.

Observers say whoever takes the day in the presidential poll faces a number of challenges. Sierra Leone is one of the world's poorest countries, having come out from a bloody civil war in 2002. Though outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma put the country's natural resources - iron, diamonds and bauxite - to good use in the past 10 years to boost infrastructure and electricity supply, prices of these minerals remain volatile.

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