FREETOWN-- Ballot counting has begun after official close of voting at 5 pm (GMT) in the Saturday Sierra Leone's rescheduled presidential run-off vote.

A statement issued by a member of the ECOWAS Observation Mission, Paul Ejime, said that Amos Sawyer, head of the Mission and his team watched the counting process at Freetown's Aberdeen polling Centre.

Sawyer, according to the statement, had earlier witnessed the commencement of voting at 7 a.m.

It noted that agents of the two rival political parties and security personnel also witnessed the process.

Counting and tallying in the 16 Administrative Districts with 3,300 polling centres and 11,122 polling stations nationwide.

This will be followed with tallying at the Regional Centres and then moved to the National Office for the announcement of the final results.

The ruling APC has Samura Kamara as its candidate, running against the main opposition SLPP's Julius Maada Bio in this second election.

Both emerged front runners from the inconclusive March 7 first round that had 16 candidates.

The run-off was originally scheduled for March 27, but had to be post-poned due to a petition filed by a private lawyer, which resulted in an interim injunction by a High Court.

The vacation of the court order and the preventive diplomacy initiated by heads of international observation missions helped to douse the political tension and paved the way for Saturday's run-off, which was generally peaceful.

Meanwhile, Bio blamed the presence of security forces at polling stations for the low turnout during the second round of a presidential election on Saturday.

Voting got under way early in peaceful conditions, according to witnesses, though some complained that a heavy police presence inside polling stations was deterring people from casting their ballot.

Staff at two polling stations said turnout in the morning was lower than in the first round. Many were forced to walk to their nearest voting station because of a driving ban imposed on election day for security reasons.

Compared to the first round of elections on March 7 the turnout on Saturday morning was low. Some voters said they were intimidated by the presence of police and soldiers at polling stations and were afraid to go. The government said it had deployed more security forces after several incidents of violence between the first and second round.


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