Voters in Sierra Leone have been called out to vote on Saturday in the final round of a presidential campaign marked by verbal sparring, sporadic violence and a last-minute legal battle.
In the first round on March 7, a water-thin margin separated the two front-runners.
Opposition challenger Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) had a narrow edge over Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC), in a ballot with a turnout of more than 80%.
“The race is too close to call,” Edmond Abu, director of the Native Consortium and Research Center, told media on Friday.
The key to victory lies with whoever wins Kono, a diamond-rich district in the east of the country, Abu said.
The runoff should have taken place on Tuesday but was delayed so the High Court could hear a complaint by the APC that some ballots had been tampered with.
The court lifted an injunction on Monday, but the National Electoral Commission said it needed four extra days for preparation because of lost time.
Bio, 53, is bidding to end a decade in power by the APC.
He is a blunt-talking retired brigadier who took part in a 1992 coup and briefly led a junta in 1996 that helped pave the way for democratic elections.
In 2012, he lost the election to the APC’s Ernest Bai Koroma, who is stepping down after a decade in power.