Polls open in Sierra Leone’s runoff presidential vote

Polls open in Sierra Leone's runoff presidential vote
The Associated Press

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Polls opened Saturday morning in Sierra Leone’s runoff presidential election, which had been delayed by a few days after a court challenge of the first round.

Voting appeared to be peaceful in the West African nation and the turnout was lower than in the first round on March 7. Security was tight and many streets were quiet for the holiday weekend.

The winner of the runoff will be tasked with helping Sierra Leone continue to rebuild after the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic as well as a deadly mudslide in August that claimed some 1,000 lives in the capital, Freetown.

The runoff vote had been set for Tuesday but was delayed after a ruling party member filed a court challenge alleging irregularities in the first round and a temporary injunction was issued, stalling preparations. The high court lifted the injunction early this week and the election commission asked for a few more days to prepare.

The opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party, which took 43.3 percent to the ruling All Peoples Congress party’s 42.7 in the first round, has not held the presidency since 2007.

The opposition called the court challenge a delaying tactic and its candidate Julius Maada Bio, a former military leader, accused President Ernest Bai Koroma and the ruling party of “pushing us to the point of chaos in the country.”

Koroma has served two terms and is barred by the constitution from running again.

Bio, who is making his second bid for the presidency after losing in 2012, stands to pick up votes from the 14 candidates eliminated in the first round.

The election is the fourth since Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war ended in 2002, and the previous vote in 2012 was largely peaceful.


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