Sierra Leone Choosing President, Parliament

Posted November 17th, 2012 at 4:55 am (UTC-5)
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Voters in Sierra Leone are choosing a new president and parliament Saturday.

People formed long lines outside polling stations in the capital, Freetown, before the voting got under way.

Incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma faces eight challengers, including main opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio.

Ahead of the polls, political parties urged their supporters to refrain from violence that marred the 2007 elections. Gregory Houel, who leads election observers from the U.S.-based Carter Center, told VOA the pledge appears to be working.

“We can say with a certain amount of confidence that the campaign period has been much more peaceful across the country, with fewer incidents of violence, fewer clashes between the ruling APC party and the opposition, mainly the SLPP,” he said.

Sierra Leone's electoral commission says it has taken steps to ensure the polls are credible, including training of staff. Commission spokesman Albert Massaquoi told VOA that results will be more announced quickly than in the past.

“These results at local levels, at constituent levels, and at district levels would be announced no sooner than (when) polls are closed. So, in a couple of days we would expect to have all the results finalized and announced, which would be the final results.”

President Koroma won the last presidential poll in 2007 in a runoff vote. His APC party currently holds the most seats of any party in parliament.

These are the third national elections since the end of Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war in 2002.