Sierra Leone presidential election expected to be hotly contested

President Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping down after two terms in office.

Sierra Leone's outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma waves to supporters during a campaign rally for his party's presidential candidate on March 3, 2018, in Kambia, ahead of the country's general election. Sierra Leone goes to the polls on March 7 for a general election that will select a new president, parliament and local councils. Picture: AFP

FREETOWN – An unprecedented number of political parties are contesting Sierra Leone's presidential election on Wednesday.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping down after two terms in office.

His tenure has been marred by corruption and an Ebola epidemic that claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 people.

The ruling All People’s party, or APC candidate has been handpicked by the incumbent president.

Samura Kamara, a former minister and central bank governor, is one of 16 presidential candidates vying for the country’s top job.

Sierra Leone has a two-round electoral system and he’d have to secure 55% of the vote to avoid a run-off.

He faces fierce competition from retired general, Julius Maado Bio, and former international diplomat, Kandeh Yumkella.

Police have imposed a ban of unauthorised vehicles on election day and more than 250 international observers have been deployed across the country.