By Alpha Rashid Jalloh, PV Freetown Bureau Chief.
Partial results coming through the Independent Radio Network, (IRN) an independent media organizations that reports elections results and situations related to them, indicate that President Ernest Bai Koroma (photo) is leading his opponent Julius Maada Bio.
The Northern Province, which comprises five districts, have overwhelmingly voted for the All Peoples Congress of Ernest Bai Koroma, and the Western Urban, which comprises the city of Freetown and its outskirts, and a registered voting population of six hundred thousand, has also overwhelmingly voted for the APC. The Western Urban population is twice that of Kenema in the east, which is one of the strongholds of Julius Maada Bio. The Western Rural, which comprises towns and villages east of the Western Urban, has also overwhelmingly voted for Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC.
Kono in the east has always been a determinant factor for success since early post- independence. Ahmad Tejan Kabba of the SLPP was able to climb the upper rungs of the ladder of success through the push he got from the Kono votes in 1996, and in 2007, Ernest Bai Koroma was able to outpace his opponent Solomon Berewa through a push he got from the Kono votes which he shared with Berewa.
Kono is related to both SLPP and APC. It is where Sia Koroma wife of Ernest Bai Koroma hails from. But it is also the home of Isata Jabbie, wife of former president Kabbah . The running mate in the APC, Sam Sumana also hails from Kono. This diamondeferous district therefore is a very complex determinant factor in the success of the two traditional parties in the country. Koroma this time round, according to provisional results coming in, has made significant inroads onto the district and has been polling high votes.
Kailahun distinct is in the South East of the country and has always been a stronghold of the SLPP. But Koroma has made some impact ( though not to be compared to the SLPP) in Kailahun this time round. There has also been surprises in Bonthe where Koroma gained some votes which were higher than those of Charles Margai of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) who hails from Bonthe.
In the Southwest of the country, Koroma continues to gain enormous support in some parts of Moyamba District who have overwhelmingly voted for Koroma and his APC.
Julius Mada Bio on the other hand has continued to pull out massive votes in Bo, Kenema Pujehun and Bonthe. In Freetown, he has surprisingly pulled out high votes at Dworzark, West of Freetown, an area that has hitherto been considered an APC stronghold.
But it is yet difficult to determine a winner because Section 42 (e ) of The 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone states, “No person shall be elected as president of Sierra Leone unless at the presidential election he has polled not less than fifty-five per cent of the valid votes in his favour and section 42 (f) states; “In default of a candidate being duly elected under paragraph (e) , the two candidates with the highest number or numbers of votes shall go forward to a second election which shall be held within fourteen days of the announcement of the result of the previous election, and the candidate polling the highest number of votes cast in his favour shall be declared president."
This is where the snag is currently and many have been speculating over a run-off but judging by the margin by which Ernest has been leading, the general opinion is that he might get a land slide victory in the first polls.
APC and SLPP are the two traditional parties in the country. SLPP was first formed in 1951 as a reaction to Creoledom. The creoles,(descendants of the freed slaves from the Americas in the 18 century) prior to independence had formed parties that alienated the provincials who were described as “natives”. The SLPP won overwhelmingly in the 1951 elections that were conducted (the first elections at national level in colonial period). But at a constitutional conference in London in 1960 to grant the country independence, Siaka Stevens ( founder member of APC) broke a way from the negotiating team called United Front for Independence on the grounds that the British should not be given concession to fly over the air space of Sierra Leone anytime without due notice. He also advocated for elections to be conducted before independence so as to ensure that which ever party ruled the country after the granting of independence, would have the mandate of the people. He later transformed his Election Before Independence Movement to a party called All Peoples Congress, which became a populist party. It contested one election in 1962 and subsequently brought down the ruling SLPP in 1967 in which there was a military intervention led by Brigadier David Lansana. It was followed by series of other coups until when the Anti- Corruption Revolutionary Movement (ACRM) took power and called APC from exile. Since then, APC dominated the political scene and declared a one-party state in 1978 in which SLPP members were brought into the government. In 1991, a group of military officers that included Julius Maada Bio overthrew the APC and declared the National Provisional Ruling Council as the government. It happened at a time when plans were underway to return the country to civilian rule. The NPRC conducted elections and handed over to the SLPP which won controversial elections in 1996. SLPP was brought down its knees by the APC in the 2007 elections but have been agitating against the annulment of 477 polling stations in which they over voted like in the 1996 elections.
Latest unconfirmed reports say APC won a seat in Kailahun and swept the local council elections in Kono with the exception of one. The same trend is on in Western Urban , Western Rural and the North.
The November 2012 elections have been peaceful especially with the deployment of a combined team of police and military personnel all over the country. However, there have been reports of few malpractices like the stealing of voter registration slips by a woman who was arrested. In another incident agents of the SLPP in the North were arrested with Voter registers (which they claimed were meant to verify voters) . It is only National Electoral Commission officials who are permitted to be in possession of voting materials but SLPP and Julius Madda Bio have been insisting (Courtesy of an interview with Maada Bio over Independent Radio Network on November 17) that they have the right to be in possession of the materials so as to ascertain the authenticity of those who were entering polling stations to vote.
One other problem on polling day was transport crisis. Commercial vehicles were banned on polling day and the government buses assigned to ply the routes were too few and that caused serious constraints to many voters who had registered far away from their current residences. Some voters who were travelling to Waterloo, 20 miles from the capital Freetown to vote were involved in an accident and seriously injured at Calabatown on the outskirts of the capital Freetown.
Presently, many people are still glued to their radios listening to the results that are coming.