Friday, September 14, 2007

Sierra Leone opposition 'set for win'

Opposition leader Ernest Bai Koroma is still ahead in the race to become Sierra Leone's next president.

Rival candidates Ernest Bai Koroma (L) and Solomon Berewa Ernest Bai Koroma (L) beat Solomon Berewa in the first round

With three-quarters of the votes from Saturday's run-off counted, Mr Koroma has some 60%, while Vice-President Solomon Berewa has about 40%.

Foreign observers said the poll was generally calm and orderly, although some irregularities had been reported.

The National Election Commission said some polling stations had recorded turnouts of 100% or more.

And police were detaining about 20 people for voting offences, AFP news agency reported.

Invalid results

The NEC has been widely praised for the "fair and transparent" conduct of the election, where overall turnout was about 73%.

But the BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross says the NEC has to double up as a detective agency.

Queue of voters in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 8 September 2007 Authorities have been praised for their running of the polls

International observers, including teams from the European Union and the National Democratic Institute, had asked the NEC to investigate some 14 polling stations with unusually high turnouts.

Christiana Thorpe, head of the commission, confirmed there had been cases of polling stations with a turnout of 100% or more.

"In cases of voter turnout exceeding 100%, the station results shall be automatically invalidated," she told AFP.

A local monitoring body, National Election Watch (NEW), reported some cases of ballot-stuffing and other incidents.

And Ms Thorpe said the commission officials had been subjected to intimidation and threats.

No further results from the country's 6,157 polling stations are expected until Monday, while the commission investigates claims of foul play.

This was Sierra Leone's first election since the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers. A particularly brutal civil war ended in 2002.

Our correspondent says whoever the new president is, he will have the task of uniting a country which to some extent has been divided anew by such a closely-fought election.

BBC NEWS | Africa | S Leone opposition 'set for win