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Johnson-Sirleaf Leads in Liberia's Presidential Poll; Rival Cries Foul

With over half of the polling stations reporting, former Liberian finance minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has taken a sizable lead in a presidential runoff election. Her rival, former soccer player George Weah, is charging that the vote was fraudulent.

Liberia's election commission says Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf has 56 percent of the vote, compared to nearly 44 percent for Mr. Weah.

Ballots have been counted in all 15 counties.

The head of the electoral commission, Frances Johnson-Morris, has made clear complaints related to Tuesday's election must be filed to her within three days after the vote.

"The longer it takes for them to share with us the information and the evidence they have, the more difficult it makes the job for us," she said. "If there's evidence, they need to share that evidence with us within 72 hours, that's the rule, we have not gotten any complaint of that sort."

Her comments came after Mr. Weah said officials had found dozens of ballots pre-marked for Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. He said he was taking his challenge to the United Nations, African Union, and the United States, to ensure a free and fair vote. But, while alleging fraud, Mr. Weah urged his angry supporters to remain calm.

A popular chant at his headquarters was "No Weah, No Peace."

One of the supporters, a demobilized and disarmed general from one of the fighting factions in Liberia's 14-year civil war says he can't believe Mr. Weah is not winning.

"The people are trying to defraud this election and we are not satisfied with it. We, the ex-generals, we told the people we want peace in this country. If they are not doing this free and fair, we will go back in the bush," he said.

This female supporter was also calling for blood.

"I want to tell the international community, if they want to be sure that they want for the Liberian people to have peace, that they bring George Weah to us," she said. "Or else, we will kill, we are ready to kill for [George] Manneh Weah. We will die for this man, that's what I wanted to say."

As night fell on Monrovia, a bombed out city without electricity, Nigerian peacekeepers prevented several hundred of Mr. Weah's supporters from blocking traffic around the compound of his party's headquarters.

The U.N. mission, which helped organize the vote, has said it will not tolerate any violence. Official results might not be available for another week.

The new president will take office in January, ending 25 years of war, military rule and transition to democracy.