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Slow Election Results in Liberia Cause Confusion

The slow release of official results from Liberia's post-war election this week is causing confusion. In the presidential race, former soccer star George Weah is leading, but with a crowded field splitting votes, it appears there might have to be a run-off between him and the second-place finisher.

National Election Commission head released presidential election results from 278 of the more than 3,000 polling centers. Just 88,000 ballots have been counted from 14 counties.

"Based on these votes, the three leading candidates at the moment are, George Weah, 23.7 percent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 14.9 percent, Charles Brumskine 11.8 percent," said Ms. Morris.

The 19 other candidates have less than 10 percent, but the voting has been very divided.

Newspapers and radio stations have made predictions and released their own results, some of them indicating a first-round victory for Mr. Weah, based on the findings of their correspondents. They have also started announcing official results, but without indicating these represent just a small total of the final tally.

Ms. Morris urged journalists to do a better job in explaining the gradual release of official results.

"We still have a long way to go, so let people understand this," she emphasized. "You need to help us educate the public. They are not understanding this thing. You know, I hear some people saying, we have already begun cheating. How ridiculous, how ridiculous. I can understand that our people are illiterate, and they do not understand the voting forms. We need to educate them. You, the press, you need to educate people."

The effect of her request did not have immediate impact, as throughout Monrovia, groups of people gathered to argue about what the results mean.

It is not just the press anymore, as young boys are also circulating with single sheets of paper, announcing their own results. Tuesday's voters are also going to polling places to check for themselves what the results were where they voted.

A presidential candidate will need more than 50 percent to win in the first round, or else there will be a run-off between the top two, expected in November.

A Sirleaf supporter, Denis Shepard, says he prefers slow vote counting, rather than what he calls fast cheating.

"I like it to be faster, but if they decide to make it slow, then it depends on the areas where the polling centers were," he said. "That is the only way, because taking it from that point, that will indicate a good result. But if you make it any faster, then maybe it will be a fake result."

Election observers from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations have applauded Liberians for the high turnout and peaceful and transparent conduct of the elections. Voters who waited in the sun for hours, sometimes pushing and shoving, also chose new representatives and senators.