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October 15, 2011

Liberian Opposition Calls off Election Boycott

by Scott Stearns

Liberia's presidential race is heading toward a run-off election between incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Justice Minister Winston Tubman.  Opposition parties had threatened to boycott results over what they said was vote fraud.

Winston Tubman says President Sirleaf's political opponents have made their point and are returning to an electoral process they quit briefly over accusations of fraud.

He told a rally in the capital, Monrovia, that opposition parties want a recount and that they will resume work at the electoral commission to continue a vote that is heading toward a second-round run-off because no candidate has an absolute majority.

With nearly all of the votes counted, President Sirleaf has about 44 percent.  Mr. Tubman has a little more than 32 percent. Former rebel leader and current Senator Prince Johnson is running third with less than 12 percent of the vote.

National Electoral Commission Chairman James Fromayan told reporters Sunday that officials do not expect the remaining vote will give any candidate more than 50 percent of the votes cast.

George Weah is Mr. Tubman's running mate.  He says President Sirleaf will face a united opposition in a run-off. “We are hoping that we go to the second round, and then we will put our cards on the table.  These people you see here will be running a campaign together to remove this government," he said.

Mr. Tubman and Mr. Johnson were among eight candidates on Saturday who denounced election results as “null and void” and called for a fresh election with a new electoral commission because of what they said was fraud, including stuffing ballot boxes, by Sirleaf supporters.

Election observers from the Carter Center and the Economic Community of West African States say the vote was largely free and fair.

Electoral Commission Chairman Fromayan says opposition complaints have no bearing on what already has been done. “The point where we have reached, one can not say that they are disengaging because all the parties participated in the election.  The counting was done.  And both the local population and the international observers who came, they all acclaimed the process to be free, fair, and transparent," he said.

The run-off between President Sirleaf and Mr. Tubman is scheduled for November 8.