Close, contested but credible? Sierra Leone’s 2023 elections
On 27 June 2023, incumbent President Julius Maada Bio was declared the winner of the Sierra Leone presidential election by the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL). Bio’s victory maintained a record of incumbent presidents, since 2002, recording first round victories during their re-election bids. His 56.2% share was just above the 55% threshold required to win without a run-off, and a full 15% clear of his nearest challenger, the All People’s Congress (APC) candidate, Samura Kamara. In parliamentary and local council elections, held concurrently, the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won 81 of the 135 seats for which elections took place and secured control of 12 of the 22 district and city councils.
However, these results were disputed by the APC, with concerns also raised about their statistical credibility by leading international election observer groups. But rather than challenge the outcome in the courts, the APC has chosen to boycott seating of the national and sub-national legislative bodies whilst demanding a re-run of the elections, but only after the resignation of key institutional heads, including that of the ECSL. Although these demands will not be realised, the APC’s non-participation in the governance of the country could pose wider questions for the credibility of Sierra Leone’s democracy.
This report looks at a review of the recent elections and reviews possible ways to address disillusionment with the election process.