Accessibility links

Sierra Leone Heads to Presidential Runoff, Opposition Takes Control of Parliament


Election officials in Sierra Leone say they will announce a date for the presidential runoff on Saturday. Final results for the first round came in Thursday with opposition leader Ernest Koroma leading outgoing Vice President Solomon Berewa 44 percent to 38 percent, and Koroma's All People's Congress party winning a majority of the seats in parliament. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

A presidential runoff will likely be held in September after neither the APC's Koroma nor Vice President Berewa of the Sierra Leone People's Party received the 55 percent of votes needed to win in the first round.

The opposition APC also won 59 of the 112 seats in parliament. APC officials say they think the margin should be bigger, and they plan to contest some of the results. The SLPP took 43 seats, down from 83 they held in the previous assembly.

Charles Margai of the People's Movement for Democratic Change, a splinter party of the ruling SLPP, came in third in the presidential race with 14 percent. Margai has thrown his support behind opposition leader Ernest Koroma.

APC National Organizing Secretary Alimamy Koroma, who is not related to the presidential candidate, says the two opposition parties are working together to win the runoff election.

"The APC and the PMDC are already strategizing on how we are going to move in the field to keep our flock together and even to take away some support from the SLPP," said Koroma.

SLPP spokesman Victor Reider says the party will rely on voters' opinions of their performance during two terms in power to win the second round.

"We think that as the ruling party we should get the credit for having created the atmosphere of tolerance and a free enough democratic process to have enabled the opposition party to end up with a majority of seats in parliament," he said.

Reider says the SLPP will also try to persuade PMDC supporters to return to the party.

PMDC spokesman Ansu Lansana says this is not likely based on meetings with the party's membership.

"They are saying first and foremost we are diametrically opposed, our policies are diametrically opposed, to that of the SLPP, which is why we broke off from the SLPP," said Lansana. " Secondly, we are espousing positive change, which, in our estimation, is not what the SLPP is espousing. They are espousing continuity of the present trend of leadership."

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms in office.

Presidential and parliamentary elections, the first since the departure of U.N. troops two years ago, were deemed generally free and fair by international observers. The elections have been closely watched for signs of how far the diamond-rich nation has come since the end of its civil war in 2002.

XS
SM
MD
LG