The 2018 Sierra Leone Presidential Election
Dennis V. Gargano
On March 7, 2018 Sierra Leone held presidential elections. Since none of the 16 candidates received the 55 percent of the votes required by Article 42(2)(e) of the Constitution to win the election, a second round of voting is required. As per Article 42(2)(f), a presidential runoff election was scheduled for March 27, 2018 with the top two candidates from the initial election—Julius Maada Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) who had 43.3 percent of the votes and Samura Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress Party (APC) with 42.7 percent of the votes. On Saturday March 24, 2018, the High Court of Justice (High Court) granted a temporary injunction to a lawyer associated with the APC halting the second round of presidential election based on allegations of fraud in the first round.
On Monday March 26, 2018, the High Court lifted the injunction to delay the second round of the presidential election saying the vote can go ahead as planned without addressing the fraud allegations. However, the Electoral Commission—a government board overseeing all elections—filed a request asking that the runoff be delayed until Saturday, March 31, 2018 because its preparations had been interrupted by the earlier injunction. The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone postponed the presidential runoff vote, granting the Commission’s request.
The runoff presidential election was held on Saturday March 31, but the outcome was delayed because of a disagreement over the tallying method. On Wednesday April 4, in accordance with the rules set forth in the constitution, the Returning Officer announced Julius Maada Bio—who received 51.8 percent of the votes—as the president-elect. Less than two hours later, Mr. Bio was sworn in as President of Sierra Leone in conformity with Article 42(3) which requires the person elected to the office of the President to assume office on the day upon which he is declared elected, or upon the date that his predecessor’s term of office expires, whichever is the latter. Mr. Bio succeeds former President Ernest Bai Koroma, who was constitutionally ineligible to run for the office having already served the constitutionally-permitted two five-year terms (as per Article 46).
Samura Kamara, who has alleged massive ballot stuffing and over-voting, has not conceded defeat, stating “We are challenging the results. . . . We will be taking appropriate legal steps. We urge all our supporters to stay calm as we pursue this legal action.” President Bio has appealed to Mr. Kamara to drop the legal challenge and work with him in the new government. The two men previously worked together when Bio was the head of a military junta in 1996. President Bio is trying to establish a working relationship with the APC which won a parliamentary majority of the 132 elected seats in the recent general elections.
To find out more on the government of Sierra Leone and the 1991 Constitution (as currently amended to 2016), read Rowland JV Cold and Chukwuemeka CV Taylor’s Introductory Note commentary for Sierra Leone.