Sierra Leone losing party intends to challenge vote results

April 5, 2018
FILE - In this Saturday March 31, 2018, file photo, Julius Maada Bio, right, presidential candidate for the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party, gestures outside before casting his ballots during the runoff presidential elections, outside a polling station in Freetown, Sierra Leone. On Wednesday, April 4, 2018, Sierra Leone's election commission declared Bio as the West African nation's new president, giving the opposition party its first presidency in 10 years. (AP Photo/Cooper Inveen, File)

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Sierra Leone’s former ruling party intends to challenge the results of the presidential runoff vote in court, the losing candidate announced after the opposition party won for the first time in a decade.

The National Electoral Commission announced late Wednesday that Julius Maada Bio with the Sierra Leone Peoples Party party had won. Bio, who had lost the presidential election in 2012, was swiftly sworn into office just before midnight.

Defeated candidate Samura Kamara said in an interview broadcast on national television that “the results did not reflect the will of the voters.” He said his APC party intends to take “appropriate legal action.”

Any registered voter has seven days to petition the Supreme Court over the results.

Bio has pledged to work for national unity in the West African country of 7 million people. He faces a parliament that is dominated by the All Peoples Congress party.

Bio, a former military leader, won Saturday’s runoff election with 51.81 percent of valid votes cast, the electoral commission said. Kamara received 48.19 percent of the votes.

The runoff vote was delayed by a few days after a ruling party member filed a court challenge alleging irregularities in the first round and a temporary injunction was issued, stalling preparations. The high court later lifted the injunction.

Bio will now lead efforts to continue rebuilding the country after the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic as well as a deadly mudslide in August that killed some 1,000 people in the capital, Freetown.

The election was the fourth since Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war ended in 2002.

Outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma had served two terms and was barred by the constitution from running again.

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