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Sierra Leone ready for elections: electoral official
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07:48, August 10, 2007

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The West African country of Sierra Leone is ready for Saturday's general elections, the second of its kind since the end of a civil war in 2002, said head of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Thursday.

The NEC has been preparing "arduously" for the elections "since Day One"and now the country is "ready," NEC Chairwoman Christiana Thorpe told a press briefing here on Thursday.

The presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on Saturday are the second general elections since the decade-long civil war ended in 2002,which was estimated to have claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced around 2 million. The first was held in May 2002, during which President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was reelected.

According to Thorpe, 2,702 polling centers and 6,171 polling stations under these centers have been set up in Sierra Leone, serving a total of 2,619,565 registered voters nationwide.

Seven contestants are vying for the presidency, the most hopeful among which include Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress (APC),and Charles Margai of the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).

In the meantime, 566 parliamentary candidates are contesting for the 112 seats among a total of 124 seats, the other 12 to be filled by paramount chiefs elected in separate elections.

The NEC officials told reporters at the briefing that to avoid fraud and ensure the integrity of the elections, specially- designed ballot boxes that cannot be "stuffed" with extra votes and tamper-evident results envelops that cannot be resealed once opened are among a number of practical measures being put in place by the electoral commission.

"We are confident that with these measures in place, we will be able to identify any attempts of fraud and to act accordingly," said Thorpe, adding that "these procedures will help ensure the election results be credible and transparent, and represent the true voice of the people."

Also to be present at the scene of elections and perform the duty of monitoring, Thorpe said, would be 19 international observer groups with 350 staff, 39 domestic observer groups with 6, 751 personnel, and 8,670 party agents from all over the country.

According to Sierra Leone's election law, a presidential candidate must garner at least 55 percent of the total valid ballots in order to emerge as winner. If all candidates failed to reach the benchmark, a runoff shall be conducted between the two candidates who obtain the highest amount of votes in the first round.

It is estimated that the final results of Saturday's elections would be available on around Aug. 23.

Source: Xinhua

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