Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sierra Leone election ballots counted

Vote counting is under way in Sierra Leone following a high turnout in  presidential and parliamentary polls.

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The ballots are being counted in public - in full view of the party agents - in the country's 6,000 polling stations.

Seven presidential candidates are vying to replace Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who is stepping down after serving two terms.

The election is only the second since Sierra Leone emerged in 2001 from a decade-long civil war, during which an estimated 50,000 people were killed.

The previous poll in 2002 was organised by the United Nations, which still had peacekeepers on the ground.

The BBC's Will Ross in the capital, Freetown, says this time around, Sierra Leonians are running the show and the good news is the process so far has been largely trouble-free.

There had been tension in the run-up to the elections and some feared violence but the police reported no major incidents.

Lengthy queues were reported across the country, with some voters queuing up before the polls had even opened.

The large turnout was a sign of the population's determination to see Sierra Leone turn its back on years of instability and a civil war, our correspondent says.

One female voter told the BBC: "I came out to vote for good governance, democracy, and progress in Sierra Leone."

A male voter said: "I've just voted. It's wonderful. This is my second time of voting, and I thank God for that because it's my right."

The front-runners

Seven candidates are standing in the presidential election. Three are considered front-runners.

Mr Berewa, who is vice-president of the governing Sierra Leone People's Party, faces a challenge from Ernest Bai Koroma, of the All People's Congress, which was in power for two decades leading up to the civil war.

The emergence of a new political party led by a former minister, Charles Margai, will also make it harder for any candidate to secure 55% of the vote in order to avoid a run-off, correspondents say.

In addition, more than 500 candidates are vying for just over 100 parliamentary seats.

About 2.6 million of the country's five million people were registered to vote.

Partial results are expected to be published as soon as counting ends, with final results within 12 days.

BBC NEWS | Africa | S Leone election ballots counted