Sierra Leone to hold delayed presidential runoff on March 31

2018-03-28 06:01
Sierra Leonean election workers check ballot papers as counting takes place at a polling station in Freetown following voting in the country's general elections. (File, AFP)

Sierra Leonean election workers check ballot papers as counting takes place at a polling station in Freetown following voting in the country's general elections. (File, AFP)

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Sierra Leone's electoral body announced on the eve of a presidential run-off on Monday that the vote would be delayed until Saturday after losing days of preparation due to a court order.

The country's High Court had earlier lifted an injunction imposed on Saturday that halted the runoff until further notice, after considering a fraud complaint filed by a lawyer linked to the ruling All Peoples' Congress (APC).

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) said more time was needed "due to logistical delays resulting from the injunction" and called on voters to cast their ballots "in an environment of peace".

Aside from their main legal complaint, the APC further alleged on Sunday that the electoral commission was working with a different voter registration list to calculate results than the one officially published.

Opposition leader Julius Maada Bio, from the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), took 43.3% of votes in the first round, while Samura Kamara of the incumbent APC took 42.7%.

Sierra Leone emerged from a brutal civil war in 2002 and has remained largely peaceful since then.

However, flare-ups occur around election time, and memories of a conflict in which more than 50 000 died remain potent.

The APC's first-round loss fuelled allegations by the opposition that it was seeking to derail the final outcome through the courts.

"The motivation behind the APC injunction is very clear: they do not want a runoff presidential election to proceed because they know the verdict of the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leonean electorate will not be in their favour," Bio told a press conference on Sunday.

A group of civil society organisations said on Saturday the court decision was "frustrating and depressing", as the March 7 vote had been declared credible by national and international observers.

President Ernest Bau Koroma is stepping down after a maximum two terms.

Bio has said the president will bring Sierra Leone "to the brink of chaos" if he fails to leave as scheduled at the end of his mandate.

Some candidates and supporters have used ethnic slurs at campaign rallies, and the police and international observers have raised concerns over such rhetoric in recent weeks.

The APC broadly relies on the Temne and Limba people in its northern strongholds, while the SLPP is more popular in the south with the Mende ethnic group.

Read more on:    sierra leone  |  west africa  |  sierra leone 2018 elections

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