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November 05, 2011

Liberia Presidential Campaign Ends, Opposition Boycotting Vote

by Scott Stearns

As presidential campaigning ends in Liberia, the incumbent is calling for a high voter turnout in the face of an opposition boycott of Tuesday's run-off election.  

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf closed her re-election campaign asking supporters to turn out for the vote despite an opposition boycott.

“November 8 is coming," she said. "That is your constitutional right to vote. That is one thing that the law book gives you, for you to choose your leader in a democratic process.  Nobody must tell you what to do. That is your own heart that will show you how to vote.  Vote your heart because I know that if you vote your heart and look at the thing for a long time, you may say, 'Oh, I think that Ma Ellen can do the job, oh.'”

President Sirleaf is telling voters not to allow politicians to hold Liberia hostage, and not to succumb to what she calls “fear and intimidation.”

But her opponent, former justice minister Winston Tubman, says it is the president who is trying to intimidate opposition supporters by calling their planed boycott unconstitutional.  He says it is the right of all voters to vote or not vote as they wish.  

Tubman says the Congress for Democratic Change party will not take part in the run-off because it will not be fair.

“We call on all CDCians and well-meaning Liberians not to legitimatize the charade that is planned for November 8th," said Tubman. "Already, thousands of our partisans are responding to our calls.”

In its boycott, Tubman says party supporters must remain peaceful in just the second nationwide election since the end of Liberia's 14-year civil war.

“The eyes of the world are on our country," said Tubman. "And we in CDC must not use violence in any way. We will achieve more by being peaceful, law-abiding, and responsible. Therefore I call on all of our members to be totally peaceful in everything that we do.”

Tubman called for government security forces and United Nations peacekeepers to refrain from threatening and intimidating CDC members as they exercise their rights of assembly, association and speech.   

President Sirleaf says Tubman's actions show he is not ready to rule.

“This election is about a choice between hope and fear, between the unlimited potential our future holds and the ugly aspects of our past, a past where we were denied the right to vote,” she said.

The president says Tubman is falsely claiming fraud and as a reason to boycott. She says what he is really doing is forfeiting his right to the run-off because he fears defeat.

Tubman says he has no choice but to boycott the poll because electoral officials have not properly investigated his party's allegations of vote fraud from the first round, including what he says were doctored tally sheets.

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

The U.S. State Department says allegations of vote fraud are unsubstantiated, and Washington is “deeply disappointed” by the CDC decision to boycott Tuesday's run-off.