Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sierra Leone presidential run-off set for Sept. 8

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone: The run-off vote between the top two finishers in Sierra Leone's presidential election will take place Sept. 8, officials said.

The second-round vote is needed because none of the seven candidates won 55 percent in the Aug. 11 election.

Opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma finished first with 44 percent, compared with 38 percent for Vice President Solomon Berewa of the ruling party. These results, released Thursday, were officially confirmed by the electoral commission on Saturday.

In third place was lawyer and former minister Charles Francis Margai of the People's Movement for Democratic Change, who took 14 percent. Margai, who broke off from the ruling coalition 15 months ago to form his own party, has said he will support Koroma in the next round.

The presidential vote, Sierra Leone's first since U.N. peacekeepers withdrew two years ago, has been seen as chance for the diamond-rich nation to prove it has established civilian rule after a 10-year war that ended in 2002.

Campaigning was to start Saturday and end Sept. 6, said Christiana Thorpe, head of Sierra Leone's election commission.

"The previous contest was highly competitive, as the second round shall be," Thorpe said.

She called on the candidates to "again display the maturity and restraint that they showed during the first campaign period."

Outgoing President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was prevented by term limits from running for a third five-year term.

In the 112-seat parliament, Koroma's main opposition All People's Congress party won a majority, taking 59 seats, compared with Berewa's Sierra Leone People's Party, which won 43 seats. The opposition People's Movement for Democratic Change won the remaining 10 seats.

About 2.6 million of Sierra Leone's 5 million people were registered to vote in the election. Turnout in the first round was about 76 percent, Thorpe said.

Sierra Leone presidential run-off set for Sept. 8 - International Herald Tribune