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Liberian Nobel laureate Sirleaf wins presidential run-off

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-11-10

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf officially won reelection Thursday in a run-off that was boycotted by the opposition, which has vowed not to accept the election results.

AFP - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was confirmed the victor Thursday in a run-off poll boycotted by the opposition, and vowed to reach out to her opponents and reconcile the divided nation.

Sirleaf's re-election was seen as a foregone conclusion after rival Winston Tubman pulled out of the race and urged his supporters to boycott the polls, over fears the process would be rigged.

The National Elections Commission announced that with results tallied from 86.6 percent of polling stations, Sirleaf won 90.8 percent of votes cast and Tubman won nine percent.

Only 37.4 percent of the country's 1.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, with many believed to have stayed away due the boycott call and violence on the eve of the poll, when police fired on a group of opposition protesters.

The Carter Center's 52-person observer mission said Thursday the election process was "conducted transparently."

"Regrettably, the election was marred by an opposition boycott, violence on the eve of the election, and low voter turnout."

Sirleaf, Africa's first female president, is facing a tough second term with her nation more divided than ever after the tainted election process.

She has extended a hand to opposition parties, saying she hoped to put together an inclusive government as she had when she was elected in 2005, just two years after the end of a brutal 14-year conflict.

"I will reach out to all the presidential candidates. What I will offer them is not yet known because I haven't really focused on organising the government," Sirleaf told reporters in Monrovia.

Observers have said Sirleaf may face a battle for legitimacy, re-elected in an election in which the opposition did not participate, but the 73-year old grandmother shot this down.

"The process is totally legitimate as it meets the requirements of our constitution."

The poll had been billed as a chance for the war-scarred nation to cement its fragile democracy and hard-won peace, eight years after the end of its long and savage conflict which left some 250,000 people dead.

The Carter Center said "the events of the past week show that important challenges to Liberia's democratic consolidation remain."

The first round election in the west African state on October 11 was greeted by great voter enthusiasm as some 72 percent of the electorate turned out to cast their ballots.

However when the results revealed Tubman trailed his rival Sirleaf by almost ten percentage points, he cried foul and complained that the process had been riddled with irregularities.

"If there were fraud, would I not win? Overwhelmingly?" said Sirleaf.

The political bickering turned bloody when Tubman called an unauthorised march on the day after election campaigning ended and protesters clashed with police who fired live rounds into the crowd.

"I can confirm that several rounds were discharged by officers of the Emergency Response Unit. Given the volatile and fluid situation it was necessary to use some force," police chief Marc Amblard said.

Journalists saw two bodies with gunshot wounds to the head following Monday's incident and Tubman says up to eight were killed.

The president said would establish an independent commission to investigate the shooting.

Analysts have said Sirleaf's glowing international image could be dealt a blow after an election campaign highlighting her shady past and the support she received from notorious ex-warlord Prince Johnson.

"If he chose to support me I could not tell him no because he was not speaking for himself he was speaking for the wishes of his people," Sirleaf told journalists.

She said she was determined to make Liberia a post-conflict success story and was confident of her ability to reconcile the nation - a key criticism of her by opposition parties in the run up to the vote.

She said while implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released in 2009 has taken time, her new mandate would begin with a "palava hut", allowing people to come together to talk, make confessions, and seek forgiveness.

"I myself will be one of the first ones to go to the palava hut because I have been named in the report."

The report names Sirleaf among those who should be banned from public office for her ties to former warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, whom she says she supported before the full extent of his atrocities became clear.

Sirleaf said while her first term focused on establishing peace and development, her second would tackle problems such as job creation with unemployment running at a staggering 80 percent.

Date created : 2011-11-11


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