Solomon Berewa wants a first-round victory on 11 August. As more than 2.6 million Sierra Leoneans prepare to elect a new president and 112 members of parliament, the grip of his governing Sierra Leone People's Party is less sure than it has been for years. 566 candidates are standing, 64 of them women. Berewa, now Vice-President, needs 55% of the vote to win outright.
In these elections, the proportional representation system is replaced by voting in first-past-the-post constituencies. This makes personalities more important and increases the sway of paramount chiefs, almost all of them supporters of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). In addition to the 112 ordinary members of parliament, 14 chiefdom district councils will elect 12 paramount chiefs to parliament.
After its landslide win in fraudulent parliamentary and local elections on 22 July, President Paul Biya promised that his ruling Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais (RDPC) would 'modernise' the country. A journalist asked why it had not been modernised in 25 years of domination by the RDPC which, as Africa Confidentialwent to press, had taken 156 of the 180 parliamentary seats contested.
Essentially, the new presidency started last week. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua appointed his cabinet on 26 July and followed this four days later with a sweeping shake-up of the military. A former state governor has been convicted on corruption charges, while five other governors facing similar charges have struggled to meet bail conditions. Private sector oligarchs favoured by former President Olusegun Obasanjo have been pushed on to the defensive, pre-emptively, and have withdrawn from the much-criticised plan to privatise oil refineries. 'Yar’Adua is a careful politician who moves at his own pace', an aide told Africa Confidential in Abuja.