Sierra Leone will hold elections on Wednesday in which an unprecedented number of political parties will compete as discontent over the government’s handling of an economy battered by the Ebola outbreak has soared. The vote marks a departure from a decades-old tradition that mainly divided the balance of power between the All People’s Congress and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, with a newcomer, the National Grand Coalition, expected to win a significant amount of votes. In total, 16 parties have put candidates forward in the West African nation of about 6.5 million people.
“The election has the potential to seriously disrupt the two-party system that has existed in Sierra Leone since independence” in 1961, said Charlotte King, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Middle East and Africa team.
As outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma has to step down after two terms in office, his party has named Samura Kamara, a former foreign affairs minister who hails from the same northern district as Koroma, as its candidate. Julius Maada Bio, who briefly ruled the country in the 1990s as head of a military junta, will run for the SLPP.
None of the candidates is expected to win the 55 percent majority of the votes required to secure victory in the first round.