SIERRA LEONE ELECTION: PRES BAI KOROMA DEFENDS CHOICE OF SUCCESSOR

FREETOWN-- Sierra Leone's outgoing President Ernest BaA� Koroma has defended the presidential candidate widely seen as his handpicked successor.

The nation's ruling All People's Congress party has nominated its former Foreign Minister, Dr Samura Camara for the March 7 election.

President BaA� Koroma has rejected the widely held assertion.

Some people think that he will be the voice of his master, but this is not his character. He'll be himself. And thanks to the experience he has gained, he knows exactly what he needs to do to move the country forward.

The president is staying on as party chairman after stepping aside, leading to accusations he wants to retain control of the APC from behind the scenes via his former foreign minister.

Koroma also defended his record, admitting he was not saying we got it all right with an economy hit by the twin blows of Ebola and slumped commodity prices, but also tarred by successive corruption allegations.

Surrounded by hundreds of supporters waving red flags and covered top to toe in the red sun icon of the APC, Koroma looked at ease as his last day in power approaches.

I'm campaigning so that our APC party will remain in power to continue the good work we have started, Koroma told the small crowd, arguing against the influence of social media and for continuity of his road building programme.

Sierra Leone's president also addressed concerns by rights groups that a ban on all vehicles without a government pass on voting day could disenfranchise large swathes of the population reliant on public and private transport to reach polling stations.

All of it is intelligence driven. The police who are in charge of the security of people during elections have already been informed that people have intentions of moving in with machetes and others to disrupt the process, he said.

Sierra Leone's Election Commission fixed the campaign period from Feb 4 to March 5, two days before voting.

The West African nation goes to the polls on Wednesday to choose a replacement for Ernest Bai Koroma, who is stepping down after 10 years as president, along with a new parliament. Koroma is ineligible to stand as per the constitution having served two terms.

According to the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission (NEC), 16 parties have filed nominations for the presidential poll.

The main presidential contenders of the March 7 poll are Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) and Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP)

To win in the first round, a candidate must poll over 55% of valid votes cast. Unlike in parts of Africa where only over 50% is required to win the first round.

There are two female aspirants in the presidential race. Unity Party (UP) candidate: Olufemi Claudius-Cole Josephine, a nurse and Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) candidate: Gbandi Jemba Ngobeh, a proprietress.

The country operates a bi-cameral parliament of 124 legislators. But only 112 are voted for through ballots. The other dozen lawmakers (Paramount Chiefs) are chosen indirectly.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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