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Sunday, August 26, 2007

SIERRA LEONE: Run-Off Might Be Good For All.

Sierra Leone will hold a run-off vote in its presidential election on September 8 after the first round of voting failed to produce an outright winner, elections chief Christiana Thorpe said on Saturday.

"As none of the two leading candidates in the presidential polls on August 11 did not reach the constitutional requirement of 55 percent to be declared the winner, I formally declare Saturday, September 8, as the date for the presidential runoff," she said.

The opposition All People's Congress (APC) leader Ernest Koroma, and the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) candidate Solomon Berewa will go head to head in the second-round poll.

Berewa, 69, who is the country's incumbent vice president, faces an uphill battle after third-placed candidate Charles Margai threw his weight behind Koroma, 53.

Thorpe, who heads the National Electoral Commission (NEC), confirmed the provisional results published on Thursday which gave Koroma 44.3 percent of the ballots cast and Berewa 38.3 percent.

Margai of the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), a year-old party that splintered from the ruling SLPP, garnered 13.9 percent of the votes.

Four other parties contested the election but made poor showing, polling together just 3.5 percent of the votes.

Koroma's APC also swept aside the ruling party in winning a majority of seats in the new parliament, officials said Thursday.

Turnout was a record 75.8 percent of the 2.6 million eligible voters in the second election the country has held since the end of a brutal civil war.

The elections were closely watched to see whether the former British colony has put behind the violence of its 1991-2001 conflict and embraced lasting democracy.

Most of the 5,000 international and local observers who watched the elections declared that the voting as generally free and transparent.

The war, funded by blood diamonds, left around 120,000 people dead and many more mutilated and traumatised.

Thorpe said campaigning for the run-off would officially kick off on Saturday and run until September 6.

***AP NEWS

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