Liberian opposition leader ‘will not accept’ election results
Liberia’s main opposition candidate, Winston Tubman (pictured right), vowed to challenge the expected presidential victory of incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Wednesday, citing alleged electoral fraud.
REUTERS - Liberia’s main opposition presidential candidate said on Wednesday he would not accept defeat in a vote his followers boycotted, raising the prospect of confrontation in a country recovering from civil war.
Many Liberians stayed home in Tuesday’s second round poll run-off, either fearful of a repeat of election-related violence earlier this week or obeying a boycott call by Winston Tubman, the main rival to incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Tubman alleged fraud in the first round of voting last month which saw Johnson-Sirleaf, a newly-named Nobel peace laureate, come out ahead with an 11-point lead.
“We will not accept the result. We told them we were not voting and they went ahead and placed our photos on the ballot papers. Not only (opposition) CDC people boycotted but many Liberians were listening to us,” Tubman, who was a top aide to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told Reuters.
The National Election Commission said it would begin releasing results from the second round late on Thursday.
The election is the first locally-organised presidential vote in Liberia since 14 years of fighting that ended in 2003 and killed nearly a quarter of a million people. The United Nations staged a previous poll in 2005 which also ended in a dispute.
Liberia wants to put the conflict behind it and use its iron and other resource wealth to rebuild. Critics of Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first freely elected female head of state, say progress in her first term was too slow.
British oil firm Tullow Oil, announcing long-awaited results from its offshore Liberian well Montserrado, said on Wednesday that it had found oil there but not in commercial quantities.
As election officials set about vote counting, shops opened and traffic was normal in downtown Monrovia on Wednesday. But there was a sense of unease among some Liberians.
“I feel very bad about the election. I was not satisfied and the CDC will not accept the result,” said James Freeman, a 37-year-old CDC supporter. “But I cannot do anything except to speak. The results are being counted, what can we do?”
Boycott call criticised
One organisation tracking the vote, the Liberia Democratic Institute, said on Tuesday turnout could be as low as 25-35 percent, less than half the 71 percent recorded in the first round when Liberians queued in the rain to cast their ballot.
Such a low turnout could undermine Johnson-Sirleaf’s authority during a second term and could even prompt her to open a dialogue with Tubman, analysts said.
Boys hawked newspapers bearing headlines like “Victory?” and “Voters defy threats with calm and courage.” Many ran front page photographs of victims from clashes on Monday between riot police and opposition protesters in which at least two people died.
Johnson-Sirleaf took nearly 44 percent of the first round vote on Oct. 11. Tubman took some 33 percent in the first round but withdrew from the race last week and called for a boycott.
Tubman had said he would only be willing to participate in a second round if it were delayed by two to four weeks and if counting procedures were amended.
International election observers called the Oct. 11 first round vote mostly free and fair, and the United States, the United Nations, regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union have
all criticised Tubman's decision to boycott the second round.