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Election Officials in Liberia Say Too Early for Johnson-Sirleaf Celebration


Election officials in Liberia say even though all votes have been counted, it's too early for a celebration by former finance minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. They say a hearing on complaints by her opponent former soccer great George Weah is still pending.

All votes have now been counted, giving Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf 59.4 percent in the preliminary tally.

But election officials say she has no right to declare herself the winner, only they do, and under law, their deadline to certify results is November 23.

Before that, hearings will begin Wednesday on charges by Mr. Weah, there was large-scale cheating, something international observers and journalists did not witness first hand.

Observers also say the fraud charges that Mr. Weah has been able to document, if they are accepted, would not be on a scale large enough to overturn the results, with him trailing by nearly 19 percentage points.

If certified, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf would become Africa's first female elected head of state, and she told VOA, in an earlier interview, what she would plan to do in her first 100 days in office.

"Get better market conditions for our market women. I've been around the country and I've seen the conditions under which they work," said Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. "Things like repairing the roofs of markets so that women don't sit in the rain. I would like to see that get done and of course get the government machinery functioning, get the management of our country's resources in good order so that we can have right priorities and begin to respond to the basic needs of our people.

"We'll be doing lots of things, you know, getting our debt situation under control, so we can get the taps open and we can begin to attract private capital and investment, lots of things to be done," she continued. "But I think, we're up to the task and we're really waiting to get Liberia working again."

Liberia's new president will also have to deal with calls for former warlords, like exiled former President Charles Taylor and several senator elects, to face charges.

The second round presidential run-off has been marked by angry protests in Monrovia by supporters of Mr. Weah, many of them former combatants, who feel there was an international conspiracy against their choice for president.

The former world footballer of the year won the first round with 28 percent in a crowded field, but despite getting the support of many of the failed first round candidates, apparently did poorly in the second round.

One of his supporters says protests are one thing, but that former combatants could return to the bush if they do not see the process as free and fair.

"This country has gone into 14 years of war so I'm telling the election commission that it should fair in this election," he said. "Because if this election doesn't go fair, you wouldn't be treating the masses fair, because what the masses want, you're not giving it to them. So it might cause trouble, maybe not now, but in the nearby future."

Diplomats, observers, and officials from the U.N. peacekeeping mission have been meeting with Mr. Weah to discuss and investigate his claims that there was fraud. Wednesday, the hearings at the election commission are expected to be open to media, in a bid to make the process transparent.

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