Sierra Leone poll looks set for 2nd round with half results in

The elections winner faces a huge task trying to kick start the West African country’s economy, which after recovering from the war has been ravaged by low prices for iron ore, its main export.

A women cast her ballot as part of the general elections on 7 March 2018 at a polling station in Freetown in Sierra Leone. Picture: AFP

FREETOWN - Sierra Leone presidential election results were too close to call after half the votes had been counted on Saturday, with the two front runners neck-and-neck, making a second round likely.

Ex-foreign minister Samura Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress and rival Julius Maada Bio, a former junta leader and candidate of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, each had about 43% of the ballots cast in Wednesday’s poll. Kamara was about 1,500 votes ahead.

The other two main candidates — Kandeh Yumkella, a former United Nations Under-Secretary, and Samuel Sam-Sumana — got 6.7% and 3.4%, respectively. There were 12 other minor candidates.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping aside after his maximum two terms in office and the vote to replace him has largely been peaceful, a triumph for a country that lived through a brutal, diamond-fuelled civil war in the 1990s.

But the winner faces a huge task trying to kick start the West African country’s economy, which after recovering from the war has been ravaged by low prices for iron ore, its main export, and an Ebola epidemic.