Sierra Leone sets March 27 presidential run-off date

Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission chairman Mohamed Conteh. PHOTO | AFP 

Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) has set March 27 for run-off after last week’s poll failed to produce an outright winner in the presidential race.

The final results of the March 7 vote placed opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leonean People’s Party (SLPP) on top, with 1,097,482 votes, representing 43.2 per cent of votes cast, ahead of his main rival, Mr Samura Kamara, of the ruling

All People’s Congress (APC), with 1,082,748 votes, representing 42.7 per cent.

In third place was Mr Kandeh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), with 174,014 votes, representing 6.9 per cent. He was followed by former Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana, with 87,720, representing 3.5 per cent of the votes.

“Since none of the candidates of the parties for presidential election received 55 per cent of the valid votes cast…, there will be a second election exclusively between the All People’s Congress presidential candidate Dr Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio,” NEC chairman Mohamed Nfa Allie Conteh, declared after announcing the results Tuesday evening.

The much-delayed announcement was broadcast live on TV and radio, from NEC headquarters in Freetown.

There were jubilations from supporters of both SLPP and APC.

Make alliances

A smiling Brig (Rtd) Bio addressed his supporters at his private residence in Freetown after the results were announced, urging them not to sit on their laurels.

“There are other smaller parties. We need to make alliances. We need to build bridges and we need to change our tactics,” he said.

In a statement released via his official campaign social media account, Mr Kamara thanked his supporters and urged them to continue with him on the journey he was set out to complete in their interest.

“This very moment is our time to come together in creating a brighter future,” he said.

Some 3.1 million Sierra Leoneans were registered to vote. But according to the NEC, only 2,537,122 voted on March 7, representing 85 per cent turnout.

Some 139,427 votes were declared invalid.

Announcement of the results was repeatedly postponed, a situation NEC blamed on complaints of irregularities by opposition parties.

Consequently, ballots in 154 polling stations nationwide were recounted.

Mr Conteh also said ballots from 221 polling stations were declared null and void in line with the electoral laws, because the votes cast in those stations exceeded the number of registered voters.

The 2.5 million Sierra Leoneans who went to the polls also had to choose members of parliament and local council officials. NEC was yet to release figures on those elections, but provisional results from the Independent Radio Network and other sources showed that the APC and SLPP would again dominate the House, with a slight APC majority.

Start immediately

But there will also be a substantial presence of other parties and independent candidates.

A notable presence in the House will be members of Mr Sam-Sumana's C4C, who were already making headlines as a deciding factor in the second round of voting.

Mr Sam-Sumana, who was until 2015 vice-president, was controversially removed from office after falling out with President Ernest Bai Koroma. The case ended up at the West African regional court which ruled against the Sierra Leone government.

The C4C reportedly has won all nine seats in Kono, including six previously held by the APC. Because of that, Mr Sam-Sumana was expected to play a major role in deciding where those voters cast their ballot.

According to NEC officials, campaigns start immediately and will last for 10 days.

Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?

Read Story:Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?