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Sierra Leone: Blogging the Elections

Sierra Leone held its presidential and parliamentary elections on August 11, 2007. The exercise marked a peaceful transition to democracy after years of civil war. None of the presidential candidates won at least 55% as required by the constitution to prevent a run-off, which is set for September 8th, 2007. Now on to the Sierra Leone Blogosphere to see what bloggers have had to say about the process…

In Sierra Leone Elections Update – 3, Swit Salone writes:

National Electoral Commission has announced 100% of all presidential votes. All Peoples Congress (APC) candidate, Ernest Bai, Koroma has won 44% of the votes while the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has won 38% of the total vote. The People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) leader Charles F. Margai won 14%; a remarkable feat for a political party less than 1½ years old. The constitution of Sierra Leone stipulates that a presidential candidate has to win at least fifty-five (55%) percent of the total votes in the first round of elections to prevent a run-off.

If the A.P.C had managed to gain at least 50.5% of the votes in the first round then they would have been guaranteed the win in the 2nd round single-majority-win election. Charles Margai the leader of the P.M.D.C whom many believed shortchanged the SLPP of votes in key areas in the South & East has announced that he will form an alliance with the APC. However the other members of the PMDC party executive board proclaimed that Margai’s decision to join the APC was unilateral and that they are not following suit.

Jill and Dan write about the apprehensions felt going into the election and the break down of supporters regionally:

National Presidential Elections were held throughout the country last Saturday. We haven't mentioned it because there was so much uncertainty about how things would go… and lots of warnings to be prepared for the worst. Sometimes things flare up so fast — especially here where there is palpable discontent with the high rates of unemployment and the dismal state of social services and infrastructure. But as far as we know, everything seems to have gone off well. BBC has announced “free and fair” elections. There were over 4000 international election observers posted throughout the country to ensure this, and to report on anything seeming a bit fishy. There were a few political skirmishes here and there, but people turned out to vote peacefully in record numbers. We were told something like 2.6 million voters registered for this election — around 93-95% of the voting population. And people have high hopes for positive changes.
So far, five days later (as today is Thursday), the word is that somewhere between 17-19% of the votes have been officially tallied and counted. It will take a while before any results will be announced. At first, radio stations and party spokespeople, even the UN and NGOs were hearing all kinds of info, some of it conflicting. Whenever a tentative result was announced, whichever side was in the lead at that moment would claim it was winning. So now, we don't hear anything. Most of the country is expecting a runoff election to take place in a few more weeks. There were 7 candidates on the ballot on Saturday, and no clear winner as of yet. Seats in Parliament were up for grabs, and historically the North and West (predominantly Temne) support the APC party and the East and South (predominantly Mende) support the SLPP (current party in power). Of course this is a huge oversimplification of things, but basically those are the two parties with the largest bases of support, and typically over the last 30-40 years or so, power goes back and forth between the two. It's possible that some seats in Parliament will change and there might be some shifts… that's what people are waiting for as well as to hear if there's going to be a Presidential runoff or not

Sandra’s Latest gave us the latest statistics on the elections as 34.3% of the votes were announced:

The latest election update (from yesterday) is that 2119 of 6171 (34.3%) of the polling stations have reported their results. So far there has been a lot of fluctuation in the outcome. A couple days ago APC had over 70% of the votes, but the following day it was SLPP that was ahead. The presidential winner must take more than 55 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off. Here are the latest results:

Candidate Votes Percentage

Ernest Bai Koroma (All Peoples Congress) 46.17%
Andrew Turay (Convention Peoples Party) 1.4%
Alhaji Amadu Jalloh (National Democratic Alliance) 1.02%
Kandeh Baba Conteh (Peace and Liberation Party) 0.56%
Charles F. Margai (People's Movement for Democratic Change) 15.17%
Solomon E. Berewa (Sierra Leone People's Party) 35.32%
Prof. Abdul Kady Karim (United National People's Party) 0.37%

Swit Salone writes about the experience of being a national observer for the elections as well as lessons to be learnt from the results:

First stop on my observation was PortLoko….got there right as the polling center was opening and everything was orderly…..old, young, and not so old sierra leoneans waited sometimes patiently and other times a little rowdy but it was all in good spirit. All polling stations that I observed in Port Loko, Bombali, and Tonkolili [three districts in the northern part of Sierra Leone] were predominantly Temne speaking areas….and even without them saying, it was obvious that they were voting APC…..the most prevalent issue in the polling stations was that people didnt know how to vote….Some polling center officers and managers spent time explaining the processes in temne and sometimes in krio but even with the explanations people were confused about the process…some people didnt mark anything on their ballot paper while others selected multiple candidates or all the candidates. Some people signed their name instead of indicating their choice with a check mark or thumb print. In the polling stations and centers that i observed nothing peculiar happened that disrupted the process though rumors of pre-voted ballot boxes were rife everywhere……i dont know of any proven box stuffing incidents….

The biggest lessons from these elections are that Sierra Leoneans are never again going to let themselves be ruled by a regime that doesn't deliver. The funny thing is that most people who voted against the APC recognize that much may not change with the APC and that all politicians are pretty much the same but they voted for change to send a message to all parties that we are a changed people. We believe in accountability and anyone who does not meet our expectations will be voted out. Even if the SLPP wins, the message has been sent….loud and clear….WAY MAN DEM NO GLADI WI DAY VOTE FOR CHANGE....[meaning when the people aren’t happy they will vote for change…a popular saying by youth in Freetown, the nation’s capital]

During the campaigns, Nasratha wrote about about the first ever presidential debates in the country:

Last Week, the first ever presidential debates were held in Freetown at Lagoonda Entertainment Complex and this young wannabe scored tickets curtesy of a friend with the BBC. All parties were represented at the Debate besides the SLPP….Berewa refused to attend the debate because as he believed who ever was hosting it had no authority to call him to a debate and what not. Anyhoo, all the other parties were there though Charles Margai was about an hour late due to the fact that they were holding their rally earlier on that day.

First of I must admit that I questioned the relevance of the debates so late into to the campaigns….Almost everyone Tuesday of last week had already chosen their party….Also with most of Sierra Leoneans being illiterate….i questioned whether it was useful to have the debates in English….As far as I'm concerned these debates were more for the benefit of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora (who are not voting) and the self satisfaction of the organisers themselves.

Since none of the candidates won 55% of the votes, there will be a run-off on September 8th, 2007 as Sandra announces on her blog:

1,839,208 votes at 6,171 polling stations have been counted. The results are out. At 10:00 this morning the final results of the Sierra Leone elections were announced over the radio. To be honest, the announcement did not come as a surprise. For the past week people have been talking about the upcoming run-off. The only difference now is that it is official. And the campaigning can begin.

The presidential run-off between the All People’s Congress and the Sierra Leone People’s Party will be held on Saturday, September 8th, 2007.

4 comments

  • helen brewah

    Can we have a system where sierra leoneans in the diaspora are allowed to vote please!
    Helen.

  • WINSTON

    how many people want to rul this little country? is there no other job but to be presitent ithis country? these people are hurt alot why can they have this one election and try to move on with their life. sierraleone need a leader, not one whe is gready for power. there are lot of hungry people people in that country right now. the oeople of sierraleone need peace and total peace A-MAN.

  • WINSTON

    the people of sierraleone needs total peace.

  • Am very much happy that a leader that has the sympthy of this country has come to rescue we the youths . please tell president to concentrate on the educatinal area of the the country is full with drupout. thanks from Denis bob

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