Monday, September 17, 2007

Sierra Leone opposition win presidency

Opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma has won Sierra Leone's presidential election run-off, say national election commission officials.

He won 54.6% of the vote while his rival Vice-President Solomon Berewa of the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) obtained 45.4%.

At the weekend, the SLPP sought an injunction to try to stop publication of more presidential election results.

The party had expressed concern about reports of high voter turnouts.

With an ebullient character, Koroma stands tall with charisma. The 54-year-old insurance broker says he wants to run the country like a business concern Ernest Bai Koroma at a rally

Prior to a decade-long civil war, Sierra Leone had a series of rigged elections.

Mr Koroma is an insurance broker who says he wants to run the country like a business concern.

The 54-year-old leader of the All People's Congress party ran a slick campaign - calling for change.

But opponents say his party mismanaged the country for two decades leading up to the war.

Opponent disappointed

His rival for the presidency, Solomon Ekuma Berewa, was a surprise choice - named as the SLPP candidate by the incumbent President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah at a time when he was not even a card-carrying member of the party.

Solomon Ekuma Berewa

Solomon Berewa has seven days to challenge the result

As Attorney General, Mr Berewa helped negotiate an end to Sierra Leone's civil war and though a veteran 69 years old, his reputation as a workaholic convinced many he had the stamina for the top job.

But observers say high levels of corruption prevented the governing SLPP from delivering basic public services and this fatally damaged their campaign.

Architect of transition

The national electoral commissioner, Christiana Thorpe has launched investigations into at least 14 cases of alleged electoral fraud.

Christina Thorpe (photo: UNDP) The ex-nun running the polls has won respect

Most, though not all, were reported in SLPP strongholds where an unlikely turnout of 100% or more was reported compared to a 68% national average.

Dr Thorpe said these flaws were not sufficient to affect the final result.

International observers praised the NEC's conduct of the election which was largely free, fair and peaceful - but that has not prevented some SLPP members from talking of a possible legal challenge.

Under Sierra Leone law, the official results can be challenged by petition to the Supreme Court within seven days of their announcement by electoral authorities.

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