The independence constitution was abrogated during the series of military coups which followed. The 1971 constitution allowed for a ceremonial president; an amendment later that year created an executive presidency. A new constitution in 1978 established a one-party state, with the All People’s Congress as the recognised party, and there was further constitutional amendment in 1985. The 1991 constitution marked a return to a multiparty system, with many of the parliamentary features of the independence constitution, though the country was to remain a republic with an executive presidency. Implementation of this constitution was interrupted by an army coup. The National Provisional Ruling Council became the governing body, and rule was by decree. These developments were in turn reversed by the implementation of the 1995 constitution, which (with amendments) restored the 1991 constitution, returning the country to a multiparty system with an executive presidency and a unicameral legislature. For the elections of May 2002, the legislature had a total of 124 members, comprising 112 directly elected – eight in each of 14 constituencies – and 12 paramount chiefs. Presidential and parliamentary elections are held at least every five years, under universal adult suffrage and proportional representation. The president forms a government and appoints a cabinet.
Following signature of the July 1999 peace agreement UN peacekeepers proceeded with disarming rebel troops and took control over a growing area of the country, and in May 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections were held with Commonwealth observers present. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won a landslide victory, receiving about 70 per cent of the votes in the presidential election, defeating Ernest Bai Koroma, and in the parliamentary elections taking 83 of the 112 elective seats; Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) secured 27 seats and the Peace and Liberation Party two. The Revolutionary United Front Party failed to secure any seats. The Commonwealth observers said that the conditions were such as to enable the will of the people to be expressed.
In the parliamentary elections in August 2007, the APC was the largest party with 59 seats, the SLPP won 43 seats and People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) ten. The simultaneous first round of the presidential election was won by APC leader Ernest Bai Koroma with 44 per cent of votes; the incumbent SLPP candidate, Solomon Berewa, came second with 38 per cent and Charles Margai of PMDC third with 14 per cent. Since no candidate received the 55 per cent needed to secure the presidency, the leading two candidates, Koroma and Berewa, went into a second round. Koroma received 54.6 per cent of second-round votes and was sworn in as President. Commonwealth observers reported that both parliamentary and presidential elections had been conducted in a democratic, credible and professional way in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
Presidential, parliamentary and local council elections were held in November 2012 with Commonwealth observers present. President Koroma was re-elected with 58.7 per cent of the votes cast, his main challenger, the SLPP’s candidate, Julius Maada Bio, taking 37.4 per cent. In the parliamentary elections the APC secured 67 of 112 directly elective seats and the SLPP 42. The Commonwealth observers concluded that ‘the organisation and conduct of these elections had met international standards and benchmarks for free and transparent multiparty elections’.