Sierra Leone

Nov. 17, 2012, midnight

Citizens of Sierra Leone headed to the polls on November 17, 2012. Incumbent President Ernest KOROMA of the All People’s Congress (APC) defeated challenger Julius Maada BIO, and his party the APC also gained a parliamentary majority. This is the Republic’s third national election since the end of the violent civil war in 2002, and a significant step in the country’s move towards a consolidated peace.  Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) declared KOROMA as winner with 1,314,881 valid votes cast in his favor, or 58.7 percent—exceeding the 55 percent of votes required to avoid a run-off with BIO. The NEC also declared victory for the APC with 67/112 seats in parliament, whereas the SLPP won only 42 seats. Turnout was particularly high for the presidential contest, at 87.3 percent compared to 68.61 percent in 2007.

This election also marked the NEC’s initiation of biometric voter registration (BVR), an attempt to minimize multiple voter registration and reduce it to 0.01 percent. Between January 23 and March 26, 2012 voters were biometrically registered through four 15-day phases.  BVR allowed only voters presenting a Voter’s Card to vote on Election Day.

The international community praised the NEC for peaceful and well organized elections. Yet the SLPP insists that the APC came to power fraudulently, threatening a post-election boycott.  SLPP has called for an independent international assessment of the election, and the party’s chairman John Benjamin has urged the party’s representatives to boycott local government and parliament proceedings. The international community has requested that the SLPP address its grievances through legal channels. In spite of these differences, there is still hope that the SLPP and APC can work together to govern and avoid a political stalemate.

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