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Confusion Ahead of Liberia's Presidential Run-Off

Presidential candidate Winston Tubman, right, with CDC running-mate George Weah, Montrovia, Oct. 7, 2011.

Presidential candidate Winston Tubman, right, with CDC running-mate George Weah, Montrovia, Oct. 7, 2011.

In Liberia, there is confusion ahead of Tuesday's presidential run-off election because the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party appears unable to decide whether it is boycotting the vote.

CDC candidate, former justice minister Winston Tubman, had called the first round of voting fraudulent, threatening to boycott the run-off against the incumbent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, if the head of the electoral commission did not step down.

The head of the commission resigned Sunday, and on Monday Tubman told supporters the race was on.

"Our posture is yes, we will be in the run-off," he said. "And so you can tell the Liberian people and the world that there is no question, nor was there ever a question, that CDC will boycott the process."

But CDC party leaders continue to drop hints about a possible boycott. Party secretary-general Acarous Gray said on Thursday that the candidate is still in consultations with supporters and has not yet decided whether to take part in the run-off.

CDC party spokesman George Solo says party leaders are confident of victory, but only if the vote is fair.

"We are afraid of no one," said Solo. "We have the numerical strength [and] we stand ready and able to prove the will of the Liberian people. What we want is a fair chance."

Gray says the party has pulled out of presidential and vice presidential debates scheduled for Thursday at Monrovia's city hall.

'No time for complacency'

On the campaign trail, President Sirleaf says Tubman is trying to confuse voters by pretending to boycott while actively campaigning behind the scenes.

"Don't let anybody scare you and say we are not [doing] something. Everybody is campaigning," she said. "They say they are not campaigning but they are campaigning, and we want them to campaign because that is their right, and we want everybody to vote because that is your constitutional right. Don't let anybody deny you."

Because Tubman has had no public rallies amid uncertainty over his participation in Tuesday's run-off, the president appears to be campaigning in something of a vacuum, causing concern among campaign officials that the president's supporters may not turn out to vote if they think she has already won.

Emphasizing that there is no time for complacency, she asked a group of voters at the Duazon public school outside the capital for a second term to finish the work she has started.

"Now is time to think about the future," she said. "You have to now do the right thing for your country because you want to make sure that we continue to build the schools and the clinics."

President Sirleaf enters the run-off with the backing of both the third- and fourth-place finishers from last month's initial round of voting. She finished first in that round with 44 percent of the vote, while Tubman was second with 33 percent.