Sierra Leone election: Julius Maada Bio beats Samura Kamara in first round

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station during Sierra Leone"s general election in Freetown, Sierra Leone March 7, 2018. Image copyright Reuters

The main opposition challenger in Sierra Leone has won the first round of the presidential election.

Julius Maada Bio secured 43.3% of the vote, short of the 55% he needed to avoid a second round run-off.

He will now face the ruling party candidate, Samura Kamara, who was behind by just 0.6%, in two weeks.

Despite the vote being largely peaceful, heavily-armed soldiers and police were deployed around the capital Freetown ahead of the announcement.

The tight race was fought on the platforms of corruption, the economy and the state of the country’s education and health.

There has been no reaction yet from the two men who had both once served in a military junta when Brig Bio appointee Mr Kamara as his finance minister in 1996.

They will both need the support of the men who came third and fourth, although that is likely to be tricky as they were both, at one time, members of the leading candidates’ parties.

One was expelled from the ruling party, while the other resigned from the main opposition.

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