17 November 2012

Sierra Leone: Polls Open in Sierra Leone General Elections

Photo: Tiggy Ridley/IRIN
A policeman uses a poster to show a woman how to mark a ballot correctly (file photo).

Polls opened at 7am this morning in most parts of Sierra Leone as the country elects its next president for the next five years in the country's third election since the end of a brutal civil war, a high-stakes poll billed as a litmus test of the mineral-rich nation's democratic credentials.

This elections is the first to be conducted entirely by the Sierra Leone government, and also marks the first time presidential, parliamentary and local elections are held together.

Eight political parties are contesting the presidential vote in which President Ernest Koroma of the ruling All People's Congress (APC) is seen as a frontrunner and likely to win a second term in office.

However analysts predict a tight race with former junta leader Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) who has amassed significant support and is likely to force Koroma into a run-off vote.

According to the National Electoral Commission, 55% of the vote is needed to avoid a run-off, as stated in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. Final results are expected by November 26 and if there is a second round, it is scheduled to take place on December 8.

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