Sierra Leone awaits election results in tense poll

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Sierra Leoneans are awaiting general election results following a tense campaign marred by violence.

There was a high turnout, with voters telling the BBC the process was smooth despite ballots opening hours late in many areas.

There had been concern about potential clashes in the run up to the vote.

On Wednesday, the main opposition party alleged that one of its supporters was shot dead by police, which the police have denied.

Supporters of both main parties have been accused of attacking opponents.

Accusations of election irregularities were also being thrown on Saturday, after the leader of the opposition alleged ballot stuffing and voter suppression in some parts of the country.

However, the electoral body had insisted, in a press conference earlier this week, that they had mechanisms in place to ensure a fair vote. Local media reports that arrests were made.

The election is taking place against the background of a troubled economy, the rising cost of living, and concerns about national unity.

The voters are choosing a president, MPs and councillors in the West African country’s fifth election since the civil war ended in 2002.

The 11-year conflict cost an estimated 50,000 lives, but since then the country has a tradition of largely peaceful, free and credible elections, according to Marcella Samba Sesay, chairperson of the NGO National Elections Watch.

With strong party loyalty among the 3.3 million registered voters, the campaigns have focused on shoring up their parties’ bases rather than articulating and debating policy issues.

However, voters have told the BBC, they want to see concrete change in the country.

“I want a responsible government that will provide jobs, education, improve healthcare and also ensure food security. I expect the new President to work for the nation,” Solomon Beckley from Freetown said.