8 March 2018

Sierra Leone: Presidential Election Takes Place in Sierra Leone

Photo: Jason Patinkin/VOA
Police hold shields following running battles with supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party in the Goderich neighborhood of Freetown.

Voters in Sierra Leone are heading to the polls Wednesday to choose a new president they hope will lead the west African nation out of an economy left in shambles from the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak.

Sixteen people are running to succeed outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, who has served his constitutionally allowed two five-year terms in office. The two leading candidates are Samura Kamara of President Koroma's ruling All People's Congress, and Julius Maada Bio, the leader of the Sierra Leone People's Party. The APC and SLPP have alternately ruled the small nation since it gained independence from Britain in 1961.

But the newly formed National Grand Coalition party, led by former United Nations diplomat Kandeh Yumkella, has attracted the support of younger voters who are not loyal to either the APC or SLPP.

The large field of candidates may increase the possibility of a runoff election if no candidate gets 55 percent of the votes.

Sierra Leone has been mired in deep poverty thanks to the two-year outbreak of the deadly Ebola crisis and falling global commodity prices that affected iron ore, the country's key export.

And Sierra Leone continues its struggle to recover from the horrific 1991-2002 civil war that killed tens of thousands of people.

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