Sierra Leone court lifts order halting presidential election
Sierra Leone's High Court on Monday lifted an order that had halted the country's presidential runoff because of a complaint of electoral fraud backed by the ruling party.
The order that the electoral commission should be "restrained" from conducting Tuesday's vote is no longer in force, the court in Freetown said.
The High Court had issued an order on Saturday to halt preparations for the vote, following a complaint filed by a lawyer linked to the ruling All Peoples' Congress (APC).
Lawyers for the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said in their filing Monday the order had already thrown the election into "chaos".
The commission asked an alternative date of March 31 for the election to proceed, but it is not yet clear whether this will be granted.
More than 250 people and dozens of lawyers crammed into the courtroom on Monday, while outside TV cameras awaited the results, closely guarded by police.
Opposition leader Julius Maada Bio, from the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), took 43.3 percent of votes in the first round, while Samura Kamara of the incumbent APC took 42.7 percent.
Sierra Leone emerged from a brutal civil war in 2002 and has remained largely peaceful since then.
However, flare-ups occur around election time, and memories of a conflict in which more than 50,000 died remain potent.
The APC's first-round loss fuelled allegations by the opposition that it was seeking to derail the final outcome through the courts.
"The motivation behind the APC injunction is very clear: they do not want a runoff presidential election to proceed because they know the verdict of the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leonean electorate will not be in their favour," Bio told a press conference on Sunday.
A group of civil society organisations said Saturday the court decision was "frustrating and depressing", as the March 7 vote had been declared credible by national and international observers.