Sierra Leone Postpones Runoff Vote Until Saturday

Sierra Leone’s Supreme Court on Monday approved the election commission’s request to delay Tuesday’s runoff presidential vote until the weekend after the lifting of an interim injunction that had stalled preparations.


The commission applied for more time once the West African nation’s high court vacated the injunction that was granted Saturday after a member of the ruling party filed a petition citing irregularities in the first round on March 7. The opposition called the petition a delay tactic.


The runoff election is now set for Saturday.


Tensions have risen in the nation of 7 million people after neither the ruling All Peoples Congress party candidate nor the leading opposition candidate won the first round outright. The opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party, which took 43.3 percent to the ruling party’s 42.7 in the first round, has not held the presidency since 2007.


Opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio, a former military leader, on Sunday said his party would not accept a delay in the vote. He also accused President Ernest Bai Koroma and the ruling party of “pushing us to the point of chaos in the country.” Koroma has served two terms and is barred by the constitution from running again.


Bio, who is making his second bid for the presidency after losing in 2012, stands to pick up votes from the 14 candidates eliminated in the first round.


The winner of the runoff will be tasked with helping the country continue to rebuild after the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic as well as a deadly mudslide in August that claimed some 1,000 lives in the capital, Freetown.


The election is the fourth since Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war ended in 2002, and the previous vote in 2012 was largely peaceful.

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