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Liberians Vote Under Heavy Security in Second Round

Liberians were voting under heavy security in the second round presidential vote, choosing between former soccer great George Weah and former finance minister Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Turnout appears to be lower than in the first round, when there were 22 candidates.

U.N helicopters whizzed overhead, while heavily armed U.N. peacekeepers could be seen patrolling by foot in many parts of Monrovia.

Turnout appeared to be much lighter than in the first round, when it was 75 percent, but voting was also taking place faster, with fewer candidates to choose from.

One of the first to vote, Mr. Weah, came all dressed in white, along with his mother. He said he was optimistic about the process. "This is the first time in many years that Liberians can select in a democratic process, and I'm very happy that I'm part of it," he said. "I won the first round, today's a run-off and I'm hoping and praying that I will win again."

Mr. Weah, who has little formal education, won just 28 percent in the first round, but he says, that according to the demographics of Liberia, he should have won more than 60 percent of the vote.

He warned the international community to organize a free and fair vote. Many of his supporters are poor, young and illiterate. One of them, Jefferson, a former combatant in Liberia's 14-year civil war, says he was voting for change, roads, electricity, running water, schools and hospitals.

"All the politicians are saying that we are not educated. The educated people, what did they do for the country so much?" he asks. "Now we want Weah to rule the country so that we get good development for us."

A supporter for the Harvard-trained Mrs. Sirleaf says she believes her candidate has the necessary experience to become Liberia's 23rd president, following a long career as a political activist and international economist. "I feel that Ellen can be the better president for Liberia because she's very much competent and for the wide experience she had in the international world, she can make a better Liberia for tomorrow," she says.

Mrs. Sirleaf voted in Tubmanburg. She is calling for a high turnout. "We want to make sure there's a high turnout," she said, "because whoever gets elected should have a mandate of the people so that they can be able to carry out the progress, the visions that they have so it's very important."

The head of the U.N mission, known as UNMIL, Alan Doss, is also calling on Liberians to vote massively at the more than 3,000 polling stations, even though some are hard to reach, in a country with just 200 kilometers of paved road. "It's your opportunity, voters, to make a difference," he said. "I think we can't reiterate enough: UNMIL is here with the rest of the United Nations team and the international community to help ensure that the elections are successful, and we would urge you to take the opportunity to use your vote for the future of this country."

Mr. Doss says U.N troops will act in a robust manner to ensure security during and after the vote. Results could take up to two weeks. The new president will take office in January, ending a transition period following a quarter century of on-again off-again civil war and political turbulence.