(Adds dropped letter to name Adolfus in penultimate paragraph)
* Julius Maada Bio won 51.8 percent of votes
* Must rebuild economy after commodities slump, Ebola
By Umaru Fofana
FREETOWN, April 4 (Reuters) - Opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio has won a narrow victory in a run-off election to become Sierra Leone’s next president, according to certified vote tallies seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
The poll’s winner was expected to be declared later on Wednesday, and the chief justice of the West African nation told Reuters that he would be sworn in as president shortly after the announcement.
Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won 51.8 percent of a total of over 2.5 million ballots cast in the March 31 vote, beating out the ruling All People’s Congress candidate Samura Kamara, who garnered 48.2 percent.
Kamara, a former foreign affairs minister, and Maada Bio, who briefly ruled Sierra Leone as head of a military junta in 1996, were vying to replace outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits.
The National Elections Commission was due to announce the results officially at 10 p.m. (2200 GMT).
“The new president will be sworn in tonight,” Chief Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm told Reuters.
He declined to give the location of the swearing-in ceremony or confirm the identity of the election’s winner.
SLPP supporters began celebrating in the streets of the capital Freetown on Wednesday evening in anticipation of the official announcement of results.
“I feel happy about the results. I am here because my president Julius Maada Bio has won the election in this country,” said Adolfus Kargbo, among a group of SLPP supporters chanting Maada Bio’s name.
The largely peaceful election process has come as a relief for the country of 7 million people, who endured a civil war in the 1990s and whose economy was dragged down by an Ebola epidemic in 2014-15 and a global slump in commodity prices in 2015. (Writing by Aaron Ross and Joe Bavier Editing by Alison Williams and James Dalgleish)