* Incumbent President Koroma proclaimed victor on Friday
* Opposition claims "systematic and widespread
* Fast-growing economy looks to iron ore, oil development
FREETOWN, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone's main opposition
party on Saturday attacked the credibility of a poll that saw
incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma elected to a second term
in an outright victory.
The dispute risks tarnishing a vote deemed free and fair by
observers and that many hope will help pave the way for an
economic revival of the war-scarred West African nation.
Koroma's main challenger Julius Maada Bio, a former military
junta leader, said "systemic and widespread irregularities,
malpractices and injustices ... undermined the credibility of
While the SLPP stopped short of rejecting the results
outright, a top party official said the chances it would accept
its defeat when the party's leadership meets on Tuesday were
"It's very unlikely. Our membership are very strong-hearted
about it," the SLPP's national secretary general Banja Tejan-Sie
While analysts predicted ethnic loyalties would make it hard
to secure the 55 percent of votes required for a first round
victory in the Nov. 15 election, Koroma and his All People's
Congress party won outright with 58.7 percent.
Bio garnered 37.4 percent of votes in a high turnout for the
election, the third national poll since the end of a 1991-2002
civil war that made Sierra Leone notorious as a "blood diamonds"
battleground for rebels and child soldiers.
At stake was the job of overseeing billions of dollars of
investment in a natural resources boom with the potential to
lift the gold, oil and iron-rich country from poverty.
Iron-ore shipments by British companies African Minerals and
London Mining are expected to help the economy achieve 20
percent growth this year, below original forecasts of more than
50 percent, but still one of the highest growth rates on the
While a large European Union observer mission said the
advantage of incumbency meant the electoral playing field was
skewed in favour of Koroma, it and other observers called the
process free and fair.
More than 9,000 polling stations catered to the country of
5.5 million voters on election day.
In a statement released before the results on Friday,
electoral commission chief Christiania Thorpe said recounts took
place in 173 polling stations, however over-voting was only
found to have occurred in five.
"It is mathematically impossible for the number of ballots
in the ballot boxes to be recounted to impact the outcome of the
presidential election," the statement read.
Koroma's spokesman Unisa Sesay said on Saturday that the
poll result was credible and the NEC had thoroughly investigated
the SLPP's complaints.
"It's not only Sierra Leoneans who are saying it," he said.
"Don't forget that these are the elections that have been most
comprehensively observed for a very long time."