By Alhaji Haruna Sani
With less than eighty days to the June 24 polls, the improbability for a runoff is increasingly disappearing. Some political observers will tend to agree or disagree with me because of obvious reasons. But I stand firm on my position.
Since Sierra Leone returned to multiparty democracy in 1996 and the country has conducted five presidential elections. With two outgone presidents, each of them had won their re-election with landslide victory.
This time around the chances of a runoff are more unlikely not because of the ‘tradition’ of second term success by incumbents, but because of the “circumstances” around.
The chances of winning the June 24 elections in the first polls lies in the hands of incumbent President Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Dr. Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara of the main opposition, All People’s Congress (APC) party.
Why there may be no runoff? Arguably, this is the first time, since 1996 that citizens are going to polls with just two political parties in mind-straight fight between the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC. Over 97% of the over three million potential voters will either vote for President Bio or Dr. Samura Kamara. So, the chances for a runoff are highly unlikely. One of the two contenders will more likely clinch victory on first ballot.
The reality on ground: Unlike President Bio, late President Ahmed Tejan Kabba and former President Ernest Bai Koroma got strong pointers to back their campaign bid for a second term Presidency. For President Kabba, he was largely acclaimed for bringing an end to a brutal civil war that lasted for 11 years. Therefore, Pa Kabba, as he was commonly called, had a simple campaign message; (I have ended the 11 years brutal rebel war, it is now time to develop this nation, so give me a second term). Former President Koroma was also hailed for his massive infrastructural development especially on road and electricity. Therefore, his campaign message was backed by empirical evidence; infrastructural development, hence, his campaign message was (If you know I have worked for you, vote me in for a second term, and if you think I have not worked for you, don’t vote for me.
Although President Bio’s performance has been faced with constant criticism by his opponents and some of his very own supporters for not performing to their expectations, his reign has been faced with global crisis including the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. This twin crisis plus what critics has described as poor economic management of President Bio, have clouded all other efforts of his regime. Consequently, campaign message for his second term bid could be challenging.
Politics of confidence: Both APC and SLPP supporters are confident of winning the June 24 elections. Of course, the two candidates had contested against each other in2018. From the result announced by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), President Bio emerged as the winner but with a slight margin of about 1%. It is on that basis that President Bio recently literally told his supporters that he is going to give his opponent two ‘upper cuts’ with a knock out in the first ballot. Having defeated Dr. Samura in the 2018 elections, President Bio is very confident of winning his same challenger in a first poll of the 2023 elections.
Dr. Samura Kamara on the other hand believes that with the abysmal performance of the Bio administration especially in terms of economic reforms, he and his APC members and supporters are with a strong conviction that Sierra Leoneans will vote against President Bio and the SLPP this time around because he had not met their expectations.
Of the two candidates, one is definitely going to win the contest and it is most likely that the winner emerge during the first poll of the elections.
What more? Will either of the two accept the outcome of the elections result without creating chaos or going to the court? What are the chances of them accepting the outcome of the result especially in the first ballot? Political observers are keen on what happens after elections.