/ 1 April 2018

Sierra Leone votes in delayed presidential runoff

More than three million Sierra Leoneans are eligible to vote
More than three million Sierra Leoneans are eligible to vote

Voters in Sierra Leone are heading to the polls to pick their next leader in a presidential runoff delayed over allegations of fraud.

The final round of voting, which was initially scheduled for Tuesday, was put off after the High Court placed an injunction following a complaint from a member of the ruling party All People’s Congress (APC).

Saturday’s polls opened at 07:00 GMT and are due to close at 17:00 GMT. Results are expected to be announced within two days. More than three million people are eligible to vote.

Elections on March 7 failed to produce an outright winner, with APC candidate Samura Kamara finishing slightly behind Julius Maada Bio, the contestant for the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

The winner will succeed President Ernest Bai Koroma, who has been in power since 2007.

“Security is tight,” said

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from a polling station in the capital, Freetown.

“The election process has been smooth largely because of a low voter turnout,” he added.

“A lot of people in Sierra Leone say there is voter fatigue and there is also the problem of intimidation,” Idris added.

“The presence of several security officers, including the army, who are well-armed at the polling stations, according to one observer, may have necessitated the staying away of voters.”

The first round of voting was largely peaceful across the country. ‘Tight race’

On March 24, Ibrahim Sorie Koroma, a lawyer and member of the ruling APC, filed a legal request arguing that allegations of electoral fraud in the first round should be investigated before the runoff takes place.

The High Court, thereafter, prohibited the National Electoral Commission (NEC) from proceeding with the March 27 vote, before lifting the interim injunction three days later.

The NEC needed an additional four days to plan the polls after the court gave the green light to the final round.

The runoff pits ex-military ruler, retired Brigadier Bio against his former minister of foreign affairs, Kamara.

In 1996, Bio led a military coup which overthrew the government and took power for three months. In 2012, he ran for the country’s top job but lost.

His opponent, Kamara, is a former central bank governor-turned-politician.

“The race between the two candidates is tight and it’s difficult to say, with the low turnout so far, who is going to be the winner,” said Al Jazeera’s Idris. — Al Jazeera