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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 August 2007, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
S Leone election ballots counted
Poll workers prepare to count presidential ballots
Final poll results are expected within 12 days
Vote counting is under way in Sierra Leone following a high turnout in presidential and parliamentary polls.

The ballots are being counted in public - in full view of the party agents - in the country's 6,000 polling stations.

Seven presidential candidates are vying to replace Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who is stepping down after serving two terms.

The election is only the second since Sierra Leone emerged in 2001 from a decade-long civil war, during which an estimated 50,000 people were killed.

The previous poll in 2002 was organised by the United Nations, which still had peacekeepers on the ground.

The BBC's Will Ross in the capital, Freetown, says this time around, Sierra Leonians are running the show and the good news is the process so far has been largely trouble-free.

This is my second time of voting, and I thank God for that because it's my right
Voter in Sierra Leone

There had been tension in the run-up to the elections and some feared violence but the police reported no major incidents.

Lengthy queues were reported across the country, with some voters queuing up before the polls had even opened.

The large turnout was a sign of the population's determination to see Sierra Leone turn its back on years of instability and a civil war, our correspondent says.

One female voter told the BBC: "I came out to vote for good governance, democracy, and progress in Sierra Leone."

A male voter said: "I've just voted. It's wonderful. This is my second time of voting, and I thank God for that because it's my right."

The front-runners

Seven candidates are standing in the presidential election. Three are considered front-runners.

SIERRA LEONE KEY FACTS
1787: Set up as a freed slaves settlement which became a British colony
1991: 10-year civil war began
50,000 people killed in the conflict
Thousands more had limbs chopped off
2002: Post-war elections organised by United Nations
2005, 17,000 UN peacekeepers left
This poll run by a new electoral commission
2.6m voters
566 parliamentary candidates
112 parliamentary seats
Seven presidential contenders
Frontrunners:
- APC's Ernest Bai Koroma
- PMDC's Charles Margai
- SLPP's Solomon Berewa

Mr Berewa, who is vice-president of the governing Sierra Leone People's Party, faces a challenge from Ernest Bai Koroma, of the All People's Congress, which was in power for two decades leading up to the civil war.

The emergence of a new political party led by a former minister, Charles Margai, will also make it harder for any candidate to secure 55% of the vote in order to avoid a run-off, correspondents say.

In addition, more than 500 candidates are vying for just over 100 parliamentary seats.

About 2.6 million of the country's five million people were registered to vote.

Partial results are expected to be published as soon as counting ends, with final results within 12 days.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The main challengers in the presidential race



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