Candidates in Saturday’s Sierra Leone presidential elections are brimming with confidence to succeed outgoing President Ahmed Tijan Kabbah. Incumbent Vice President Solomon Berewa of the ruling Sierra Leon’s People Party (SLPP) is expected to face a stiff challenge from opposition parties who have reportedly tapped into the ruling party’s usual strongholds. Political analysts say Vice President Berewa’s popularity took a nosedive after he pulled out of a recent presidential debate.
Ibrahim Abdallah is a political analyst in Sierra Leone. From the capital Freetown, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that although people want change, he expects a runoff.
“If you look at what is happening in terms of the turn out at rallies... there is a need for change, people want change. Those who are in the ruling SLPP are forcing the party to do things that they did not do in the past. So there is that urge, that space that has been created that the opposition is actually exploiting. So it’s not that SLPP is gaining, SLPP is actually losing,” Abdallah noted.
He said the opposition has significantly gained stature in the capital, which used to be the ruling party’s stronghold.
“If you look at Freetown for example, comparing to 2002 elections, in 2002 the opposition got 35%. Now, they would get more than 60%. So it means that the need for change has actually been demonstrated in terms of how people raise issues and how people turn out in terms of the rallies that have been organized in the city. Historically, the party that always won Freetown won the elections. So Freetown is actually a barometer that would lead to what could happen nationally,” he said.
Abdallah said although ethnicity might have an impact on the election, he expects the youth to have a big impact on the election outcome.
“Ethnicity, yes and no… but people are now asking questions beyond ethnicity and regionalism. So I mean you cannot actually say that would be a decisive factor…one key factor in this election is the youth factor. 60% of those who would be voting are under 35. They don’t know anything about ethnicity or regionalism. All the campaign says that SLPP has not delivered, and that’s the key,” Abdallah pointed out.
He said although the war might have an impact on the election, there is a misconception that the ruling party ended the war.
“The youth is actually definitely connected to the war, the change in demographics. But maybe you want to look at the decision by the special court, the death of Hinga Norman, the conviction of the two Kamajore officials, if that is going to be a factor, it’s going to hurt the SLPP not the opposition. There is this argument that it’s the SLPP that actually ended the war, that they brought peace. That is not actually correct,” he said.