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Sierra Leone: tight presidential election

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Some 2.7 million Sierra Leoneans cast their ballots in the 2018 general elections on 7 March to choose a new president, a new parliament and new local council representatives. Sixteen candidates competed for the presidency, including Foreign Minister Samura Kamara who was the candidate of the ruling All People’s Congress (42% of votes) and the main opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio (43% of votes). President Ernest Bai Koroma was not eligible to run, having served two five-year terms in office. The voter turnout during the first round was very high - reaching nearly 84%. None of the candidates won the required 55% of votes necessary to win outright and a run-off election is scheduled for 31 March. The two leading candidates differed by less than 15 000 votes, which has added to a tense electoral climate. Some clashes were reported between supporters of the ruling party and the main opposition group in the capital city of Freetown and in some districts such as Kono. ECOWAS commended the peaceful process of the first round of voting and called on the civil society, including the traditional and religious leaders and the media, to work on creating a “peaceful environment for the successful and peaceful completion of the electoral process.” This election was the first in the world to be supported by blockchain technology, which is supposed to ensure transparency by using public ledgers to make crytpocurrency transactions. Traditional ballot papers will be used for the 31 March presidential run-off.