Voting was underway in Sierra Leone on Saturday in a national election which the main opposition party hopes will see public frustration with deep economic hardship foil President Julius Maada Bio’s re-election bid.
About 3.4 million people are expected to vote in the presidential and legislative ballot after a campaign marred by tensions that led to the cancellation of rallies in the final stages and clashes at an opposition gathering on Wednesday.
Bio, 59, is running for a second term against 12 opponents. The race is expected to be close between the incumbent and Samura Kamara of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), who narrowly lost to Bio in the last election in 2018.
While no leader in office has lost the presidency in the West African nation’s recent history, the APC has banked on an enduring cost-of-living crisis tipping the balance in its favour. Inflation soared to its highest level in over 20 years in 2022, while the national Leone currency slumped 60% in value.