The results of Sierra Leone’s November 18 presidential election were finalized late last week — and president Ernest Bai Koroma, the candidate of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC), first elected in the last election (very narrowly) in 2007, was reelected by a robust margin. Koroma has already been re-inaugurated, in fact, despite protests of fraud from the opposition.
Koroma won 58.7% of the vote against Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), who won just 37.4%. Bio, who participated in a coup in 1996 before helping to reestablish a more democratic government in the midst of Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, briefly served as Sierra Leone’s president in the aftermath of the 1996 coup. Koroma needed to win 55% of the vote outright in order to avoid a runoff, although no additional candidate, aside from Bio, won a significant share of the vote.
Koroma’s APC also appears to have won a majority of the seats in Sierra Leone’s 124-member unicameral parliament — today’s preliminary results showed the APC with 67 seats (an increase on the 59 seats it held after the 2007 election) to just 42 seats for the SLPP.
Ultimately, Koroma’s APC won its base in the north, the heartland of the Temne ethnic group, while Bio won in the SLPP’s southern base, where the Mende ethnic group predominates. The lopsided victory owes somewhat to Koroma’s victory in Kono district. In the map above, Koroma won the northern districts (shown in black), and Bio won the southern districts (shown in grey).
Kono, the east-central district that borders Guinea directly to its east (it’s the southeastern most district that Koroma won, shown in black above), is the most diamond-rich area of Sierra Leone, the source of those infamous ‘blood diamonds’ that so plagued the country during its civil war. It’s also one of the most diverse districts of Sierra Leone, in terms of both ethnic groups and religions (around 73% of Sierra Leone and are Muslim, though the country has a strong Christian minority), making it somewhat of a ‘swing’ district as well.
Corruption remains a problem in Sierra Leone, but Koroma — and his predecessor, the SLPP’s Ahmad Tejan Kabbah — has worked to rebuild Sierra Leone’s democratic, legal and economic institutions since 2002 when the civil war ended. In particular, Koroma’s administration has introduced free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under age 5, and it has rebuilt roads and hydroelectric capacity.
Sunday’s election was the third since the end of the civil war, and although Koroma will likely benefit from robust GDP growth in Sierra Leone (6% in 2011, for example), he’ll face the challenge of a country still mired more in poverty than flush with mineral wealth. Nonetheless, Koroma will turn to several foreign development issues, including the awarding of contracts for mining and for offshore oil exploration.
Although international observers have praised the elections as largely peaceful, fair and free, Bio and the SLPP have accused the APC of committing fraud in the election:
“The process was fraudulent and the results do not reflect the will of Sierra Leoneans,” [Bio] said.
“The party has raised concerns about electoral irregularities including faked and unstamped reconciliation and results forms, pre-marked ballot papers, ballot stuffing and overvoting in Kono (diamond-rich east), the western area and the northern province.