By Grace Chigbu
The world and Sierra Leoneans eagerly await the outcome of the presidential election held on 24th June 2023, as the country takes another crucial step in its democratic journey. The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone has published the final list of nominated candidates for the presidential race, featuring notable contenders vying for the State House. This article aims to profile the leading presidential candidates and provide an overview of the election proceedings.
The two main contenders for the presidency are incumbent President Julius Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Dr. Samura Kamara, the flagbearer of the All Peoples Congress (APC), the main opposition party. President Bio, seeking a second and final term, has been at the helm of the SLPP since winning the 2018 presidential election. Under his leadership, Sierra Leone has seen progress in various sectors, including infrastructure development, education, and healthcare. President Bio’s administration has also focused on tackling corruption and fostering economic growth.
Dr. Samura Kamara, a seasoned politician, served as Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation from 2012 to 2018. He brings extensive experience in diplomacy and governance to his bid for the presidency. The APC, known for its strong grassroots support, is banking on Kamara’s leadership and promises to address poverty, unemployment, and social inequality. Kamara’s campaign has emphasized the need for inclusive economic policies and improved social services.
Another notable candidate is Charles Margai of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) party. Margai, a seasoned lawyer, played a crucial role in helping Ernest Bai Koroma win the presidential election in 2007. With his legal background and political experience, Margai aims to present a viable alternative to the SLPP and APC candidates. His party’s platform includes issues such as good governance, judicial reform, and youth empowerment.
However, the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Coalition for Change (C4C) candidates are absent from the list of presidential candidates. NGC’s presidential candidate, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, made the decision to join President Bio in an alliance to support the SLPP’s election bid. As for C4C, a court injunction prevented the party from holding its presidential and parliamentary candidacy elections, leading to their exclusion from the race.
The election day itself proceeded with relative peace and order across the country. In Freetown, the capital city, voters peacefully cast their ballots for their preferred candidates. While there were some delays in a few polling stations, electoral officials eventually arrived to rectify the situation. Overall, the election was largely peaceful, despite the pre-election tension and occasional incidents reported.
Counting of votes is currently underway across Sierra Leone’s polling stations. The outcome will determine if any presidential candidate secures 55 percent of the valid votes cast. If no candidate reaches this threshold in the first ballot, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off two weeks later, according to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL).
Many voters and analysts anticipate a run-off due to the intense competition and popularity of President Bio and Samura Kamara. The results of the election are expected to be announced after the completion of manual vote counting. However, security agencies have advised radio stations to refrain from announcing unofficial results until the electoral commission makes an official announcement.
In addition to the presidential race, Sierra Leonean voters also elected members of parliament and local councillors. This election marks the fifth since the end of the country’s civil war, signifying the continued progress and commitment to democracy in Sierra Leone.
As the world watches with bated breath, Sierra Leoneans hope that the election outcome reflects the will of the people and contributes to the nation’s stability and development. The candidates’ diverse backgrounds, visions, and promises offer a range of choices, allowing voters to shape the future direction of their country. In anticipation of a positive outcome, it is evident that the prayers of many are with Sierra Leone during this crucial period in its democratic journey.