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Liberia Readies for Presidential Run-Off


With almost all of Liberia's votes counted, no presidential candidate has gained more than 50 percent of the votes required to win the presidency, making a runoff election inevitable. Results for Liberia's senate are also in, and former rebel leaders, who were involved in Liberia's bloody civil war, have secured elected mandates.

Running on a campaign that appealed to Liberian youth, former international soccer player George Weah is leading in Liberian polls with 29 percent of the votes. Tailing him is the veteran politician and World Bank official Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with 20 percent. The two politicians will go into a presidential scheduled for November 8.

Vote counting began a week ago, but the National Elections Commission has two weeks to certify the results.

There have been complaints in newspapers about the long time it has taken to count the votes, but National Elections Commission officer, Bobby Livingstone, says that Liberia's infrastructure, destroyed by 14 years of civil war, has complicated the vote counting.

"Some of the counties are not easily accessible by car, so even in some cases ballot boxes and materials had to be carried for several hours, from one point to another," he said. "You will appreciate that time was also required to get some materials back to a point where they would be picked up by air or by helicopter."

Most of Liberia's votes for seats in the Senate and House of Representatives have also been counted. These elections do not require more than 50 percent of the vote to win.

Each county elected two senators, and several representatives.

Among candidates set to win a senate seat is a former rebel leader, Prince Johnson, who has 32 percent of the vote in Nimba county. Mr. Johnson helped torture former military ruler Samuel Doe to death in 1990, and there are graphic pictures of him watching while his supporters cut off Mr. Does ears.

Tailing Mr. Johnson for the second Nimba county senate seat, is Adolphus Dolo, more infamously known as General Peanut Butter, who received 18 percent of the vote. Mr. Dolo has been accused by rights groups of recruiting child soldiers in Liberia's civil war. His election campaign slogan was "Let Him Butter Your Bread".

Analyst Chris Melville, from London based company Global Insight, says it is inevitable that former rebels are included in government.

"The hope of the international community is that the experience of electoral politics will somehow result in the changes of former rebels, so that they move away from the militaristic and corrupt practices that characterized their previous activities and accept a new democratic culture," said Mr. Melville.

The third wife of former president Charles Taylor, Jewel Howard Taylor, is also ahead in a senate race, and has received 28 percent of votes in Bong County. Former warlord Charles Taylor was forced to step down as president in 2003 and is in exile in Nigeria. He is currently wanted for international war crimes by a court in Sierra Leone.

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