Sierra Leone ruling party wants vote results halted

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FREETOWN, Sep 15 (Reuters) Sierra Leone's ruling party said on Saturday it would seek a court injunction to prevent any more results from a tense presidential run-off being published because it said those announced so far were not credible.

With over three-quarters of votes counted from last week's run-off poll, opposition candidate Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People's Congress (APC) has a commanding lead with 60 per cent.

His rival, Vice-President Solomon Berewa of the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), trails by some 20 points.

''We are filing an injunction .. at the high court,'' SLPP spokesman Victor Reider told Reuters, adding he wanted the court to stop the National Electoral Commission (NEC) from publishing any more results.

''We are doing this over discrepancies in the figures which have been announced regarding the results of the run-off elections,'' he said.

An NEC spokeswoman denied the SLPP claims and said it would continue to publish results as it got them.

The polls are seen as a test of the former British colony's recovery from a 1991-2002 civil war, one of modern Africa's most brutal in which 50,000 people were killed and children were kidnapped, drugged and forced to fight.

They were the first since United Nations peacekeepers left two years ago.

PEACEFUL TRANSFER President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who is standing down under the constitution after two terms, is backing Berewa. Were Koroma to win it would mark the first peaceful transfer of power to an opposition party since independence.

Some SLPP supporters say the NEC is deliberately withholding results from the ruling party's southern and eastern strongholds. Armed police had to disperse protesters who gathered outside the NEC offices today holding up placards demanding ''fair results''.

Clashes during the campaign period raised tensions in the West African country but election observers have so far commended the NEC's efforts as broadly transparent and credible.

They have, however, expressed concern over localised reports of ballot stuffing, fraud and intimidation and the NEC has vowed to invalidate results from all polling stations where turnout is higher than 100 per cent.

NEC chief Christiana Thorpe said on Thursday the authorities were investigating reports of irregularities and complaints from both political parties and that no new results would be announced before Monday.

Reuters SZ VP0148

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