Election commission says Julius Maada Bio secured 56.17 percent of votes, challenger Samura Kamara rejects results.
President Julius Maada Bio has won re-election in Sierra Leone’s tense presidential vote, the election commission confirmed, but his main challenger was quick to reject the results.
Chief Electoral Commissioner Mohamed Kenewui Konneh said on Tuesday that Bio, 59, was re-elected with 56.17 percent of Saturday’s vote. His top rival Samura Kamara, of the All People’s Congress (APC), came second with 41.16 percent.
“By the powers invested in me … I hereby certify that Bio Julius Maada … [is] duly elected president,” Konneh said.
Winning candidates are required to secure 55 percent of votes, and Bio narrowly avoided a second round.
Kamara, 72, said that he “categorically” rejected the results. “It is a sad day for our beloved country. It is a frontal attack on our fledgling democracy,” he posted on Twitter.
“These results are NOT credible and I categorically reject the outcome so announced by the electoral commission,” he wrote.
My compatriots. We have heard the unfortunate announcement of the elections results for the June 24 Presidential elections by the Chief Electoral Commissioner Mr Konneh. It is a sad day for our beloved country. It is a frontal attack on our fledgling democracy. These results are…
— SamuraKamara2023 (@samurakamara201) June 27, 2023
The election commission’s announcement came after supporters of both parties had claimed to have won in recent days, with Kamara saying that he was on an “irreversible path to an overwhelming victory”. He also alleged that security forces had opened fire on Sunday on a celebration at his party’s headquarters, though police denied having fired live bullets.
Bio had defeated Kamara, a former foreign minister, in the 2018 election.
Vote tallying had already been disputed by the APC, which condemned in a statement on Monday an alleged lack of inclusiveness, transparency and responsibility by the election commission.
The party pointed to the lack of information about which polling stations or districts the ballots were coming from.
It had said it “will not accept these fake and cooked up results”.
In a follow-up statement, it alleged “over-voting” in some areas and said the party “continues to reject” the “fabricated results” and “reaffirms our victory”.
European Union observers said, at a news conference on Monday, that a lack of transparency and communication by the electoral authority had led to mistrust in the electoral process.
The monitors said they witnessed violence at seven polling stations during voting hours and at three others during the closing and counting stages.
There were fears as the results were announced that more unrest could take place if none of the 13 candidates managed an outright victory.
The United States also voiced concern about a lack of transparency in the counting process.
Any citizen who lawfully voted may submit challenges to the Supreme Court within seven days of the election results being declared, Konneh said.
Bio addressed the nation after provisional results were released on Monday and called on citizens to remain peaceful.
The June 24 vote was the fifth since the end of Sierra Leone’s civil war in 2002 and was held amid high unemployment and inflation, as well as growing violent rhetoric.
Bio, a former coup leader in the 1990s, has championed education and women’s rights in his first civilian term that was, however, mired by growing frustration over economic hardship.
Rising prices spurred unusually violent protests last year, and the APC had been banking on the enduring cost-of-living crisis to win votes.
According to the World Bank, the economic downturn has stalled hopes of recovery in Sierra Leone, where widespread underemployment persists and more than half of the population lives in poverty.
Bio has faced increasing criticism because of debilitating economic conditions that Kamara pledged to improve.
Nearly 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population of more than seven million are facing poverty, with youth unemployment being one of the highest in West Africa.