Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Opposition sweeps ruling party aside in Sierra Leone poll

AFP , FREETOWN

Sierra Leone's main opposition All Peoples' Congress (APC) swept aside the ruling party in this month's landmark elections, winning a majority of seats in the new parliament, officials said on Thursday.

The APC won 59 of the 112 seats on offer in the Aug. 11 vote, leaving the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) with just 43 seats, down from 83 in the previous assembly.

The People's Movement for Democratic Change, which splintered from the SLPP, took the remaining 10 seats. Also in the parliament are 12 traditional chiefs seen as allied to the SLPP.

The SLPP is credited with helping to end the west African country's brutal 1991-2001 civil war but is blamed for widespread corruption and economic mismanagement.

The presidential and legislative vote was only the second since the west African country emerged from one of the most brutal wars in modern history and the first since 17,500 UN peacekeepers left in 2005.

In the presidential election, provisional results showed that APC leader Ernest Koroma was first with 44.3 percent ahead of Vice President and SLPP candidate Solomon Berewa on 38.3 percent.

Koroma, 53, and Berewa, 69, will go head to head in a run-off vote next month but the vice-president faces an uphill battle after third-placed candidate Charles Margai threw his weight behind Koroma.

As no candidate won the minimum 55 percent of votes cast the election will go to a run-off. National Elections Commission chief Christiana Thorpe said she would announce a date for the second round today.

The new president will replace Ahmad Tejan Kabbah who served two five-year terms, the maximum allowed by the predominantly Muslim nation.

The elections were closely watched to see whether the 5.5 million-strong former British colony has put the violence of its 1991 to 2001 conflict behind it and has embraced lasting democracy.

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