Thousands of voters in Sierra Leone formed queues in the early hours of Wednesday to vote for the successor to President Ernest Bai Koroma who has just ended his maximum two-term limit.
Polls opened at 0700 GMT at the 3,300 centres across the country and over 3 million people are expected to vote before the close of polls at 1700 GMT.
Voting in #Freetown smooth so far. Lines are by surname, so all the people whose names begin with “K” here at Fredrick St are complaining of the wait ( lots of people with K names in Sierra Leone) #SierraLeoneDecides pic.twitter.com/RDwipALLSq
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— LauraAngela Bagnetto (@LA_Bagnetto) March 7, 2018
16 candidates including two women are vying to replace Koroma whose years in office had been riddled by an economic crisis caused by a collapse in iron ore prices, an Ebola epidemic in 2014 and last year’s mudslide in the capital Freetown that killed 500 people.
Sierra Leone votes in crucial polls today
1. Elect a new president
2. Legislative and local council reps
3. Police enforce vehicular restriction
4. Sixteen vie for presidency – Long ques, long ballot paper
Photo credit: @Africanelection pic.twitter.com/fVSwjoZCJz
— africanews (@africanews) March 7, 2018
There are four top contenders in the election including the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) candidate Samura Kamara and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate Julius Bio.
These two heavyweights have a strong opposition from the Coalition for Change (C4C) candidate and former vice president Samuel Sam-Sumana, and then National Grand Coalition (NGC) candidate Kandeh Yumkella.
The only women in the race are Josephine Claudius-Cole of the Unity Party (UP) and Gbandi Ngobeh of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP).
Security is high in the country as the Office of National Security (ONS) had activated the security to level 2 to effectively handle any security-related incidents. This includes surveillance by the military. The police had also banned the use of cars on election day to properly maintain security.
— CGTN Africa (@cgtnafrica) March 7, 2018
There are over a dozen observer missions in the country including the Commonwealth Observer Group led by former Ghana president John Dramani Mahama, and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) Election Observer Mission led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.
Joined my colleague members of the Commonwealth Observer Group this morning for our pre-deployment briefing and some further consultative meetings with stakeholders. #SierraLeone2018. pic.twitter.com/K825Qwq8xX
— John Dramani Mahama (@JDMahama) March 4, 2018
— National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (@NECsalone) March 5, 2018