Sierra Leone: Main opposition names Bio as flag bearer
APA-Freetown (Sierra Leone) - The former junta leader, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio (rtd), has been named as the candidate for the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in next year’s presidential elections.
Bio defeated four other candidates in a hotly contested poll during the party’s convention that ended on Sunday night.
With 475 votes, Bio beat his closest challenger, John Oponjo Benjamin, who garnered 116 votes.
Sierra Leone is scheduled to go to the polls on March 7, 2018. There are over 10 registered political parties with about half a dozen new ones lining up to join the race.
The ruling All People’s Congress (APC) has Dr. Samura Kamara as the front runners. Kamara was named by President Ernest Bai Koroma in their party’s convention in the northern city of Makeni earlier on Sunday.
In his acceptance speech at the Katco Hotel in the west end of Freetown, Bio called on President Ernest Bai Koroma to respect the constitution of the country and support the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to conduct free and fair polls.
He condemned sustained attacks on the electoral body over the last few weeks over ongoing preparations for the March polls.
Some APC supporters have accused the head of NEC, Nfa Allie Conteh, of bias. The concerns were sparked by the way the Commission handled the voter registration process, which didn’t go down well with APC supporters.
This will be the second time Bio will be giving his short at the presidency. He lost to President Ernest Bai Koroma in 2012. The SLPP went to the Supreme Court to challenge the outcome of that election.
The former junta leader urged President Koroma yo protect his legacy by ensuring a free electoral process and called on the NEC to stand its ground.
“I want to remind the Commission that they have a constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and credible election, which is a precondition for sustained peace and stability,” Bio said.
While the APC has named a presidential running mate in the person of the current deputy Speaker of Parliament, SLPP says it is consulting with relevant authorities within the party to come up with a consensus candidate.
According to Dr. Prince Harding, Chairman and Leader of the party, the decision rests in the hands of the flag bearer and the National Executive Committee of the party.
Harding was reported on Monday of warning the party’s faithful against “imposing” the running mate on the flag bearer.
The SLPP and APC have dominated politics and governance in Sierra Leone since independence in 1963. And the two parties are seen as divided in terms of their support base along the ethno-regional lines of North-west and South-east. The SLPP has its strongest support in the South-east, while the APC enjoys greater support in the North-west.
The SLPP has been advised to select a running mate from the north in order to increase its chances of success in the polls.