Over 3 Million Registered to Vote in Sierra Leone's Next Presidential Elections

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Over 3 Million Registered to Vote in Sierra Leone's Next Presidential Elections

Sierra Leoneans are headed to the polls as voting gets underway to elect the country's next president and parliament.

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More than 3.1 million are registered to vote on Wednesday.

But his All People's Congress (APC) party is represented on the ballot by his hand-picked successor, Dr Samura Kamara, whose main challenger is Brig.

President Ernest Bai Koroma, who can not run again after consecutive five-year terms, has anointed former foreign minister Samura Kamara as his successor to the ruling All Peoples Party (APC).

"We are prepared; we are committed to conduct credible elections", said Mohamed Conteh, chief commissioner of the National Election Commission (NEC), adding all electoral materials had now been distributed to polling stations.

"When an APC rally through the city centre is marked by supporters waving large Chinese flags, not many questions need to be asked", said Catherine Bolten, a professor of anthropology at Notre Dame University.

Sierra Leone runs a bi-cameral legislature of 124 lawmakers.

But two candidates from younger parties - former United Nations Under-Secretary Kandeh Yumkella and Samuel Sam-Sumana - are seen as having a strong chance if they can garner enough votes from disaffected younger people exhausted of the status quo.

The APC broadly relies on the Temne and Limba people in its northern strongholds, while the SLPP is more popular in the south with the Mende ethnic group.

He reminded that his Team was in the country to support the integrity of the electoral processes through diligent observation of the polling activities in line with the rules and code of conduct for global election observers.

Observers from the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and the Commonwealth oversaw voting.

He noted that protecting the peace in our region is paramount to every ECOWAS Member State and recalled that during his visit to Abuja in Monday, March 5, 2018, he and President Buhari reaffirmed ECOWAS' commitment to maintaining democracy, peace and security.

In a joint statement they urged security forces "to demonstrate professionalism and to enforce the law in a neutral and proportional manner", in a country where the police are frequently accused of brutality.

Kamara has also earned the nickname "Mr 10 percent" from critics who accuse him of skimming money off government contracts, amid wider corruption allegations against his party.

Meanwhile, outgoing president Koroma's increasing reliance on China for infrastructure, including a new airport and adjoining toll road, have raised concerns Beijing is seeking to keep the APC in power.

Voter freebies and funding for campaign materials could "potentially influence the voting public" in the APC's favour, it added.

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