Analysis: Sierra Leone Elections – What lessons can be learned from America’s Elections

By Paul Ndiho, Washington D.C

Americans have re-elected their president.  And republican challenger, accepted defeat, and vowed to stand behind the people’s choice and work for a better America. It’s the way elections are conducted in this country and works. 

The official inauguration day in the United States is January 20th; however, as that is a Sunday in 2013, the public swearing in of President Barack Obama will be Monday, January 21, 2013. Which is also the legal public holiday for the birthday of the reverend dr. Martin Luther king, Jr. Mr. Obama, the nation’s first african American president, was elected to a second presidential term after defeating his republican challenger, governor mitt Romney.  President Obama intends to sit down with Mr. Romney in the weeks ahead to talk about how the two can work together in the interest of the nation.

“And you have made me a better president.  And with your stories and your struggles, i return to the white house more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.”

Republican presidential candidate Romney conceded the presidential election in a brief address to a subdued crowd in Boston. He said that he had called Obama to congratulate him on his victory, and he wished the president well.

“I so wish that i had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader, and so [wife] Ann and i join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.  Thank you and god bless America. You guys are the best.” 

Across the Atlantic – in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, voters go to the polls this Saturday November 17th.

Incumbent president Ernest Bai Koroma the candidate for the ruling — All Peoples Congress Party or (APC) — assumed office in September 2007. Observers say he’s likely to defeat his main opposition challenger, former military head of state, brigadier general Julius Maada Bio – the flag bearer of the Sierra Leone People’s Party or (SLPP).  It’s also worth noting that there’re several other presidential candidates seeking the top job.

Analysts say the polls are widely seen as a test of the potentially resource-rich nation.  But Sierra Leone remains one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries — this, following a devastating 1991-2002 civil war.

The current government has received praise in the international community for attracting foreign investment, particularly in the mining sector, as well as for improving the country’s aging infrastructure, and the introduction of free health care to certain vulnerable groups.

But the president also faces criticism for failing to tackle extreme levels of poverty – 66 percent, according to the most recent World Bank statistics, and high unemployment rates across much of the country. His term in office has been marred by accusations of corruption leveled against members of his government, including, his running mate, Vice-president Sam Sumana.

Many local civil society monitoring groups and both regional and international organizations are expected to observe the poll.

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