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Liberian Opposition Calls for Election Boycott

A Liberian child stands in front of an election poster for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the Liberian capital Monrovia, September 8, 2011.
A Liberian child stands in front of an election poster for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the Liberian capital Monrovia, September 8, 2011.

In Liberia, Monday is a day of reflection for voters ahead of Tuesday's presidential run-off vote between incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the former justice minister Winston Tubman. Tubman is calling on supporters to boycott the vote because of what he says is electoral fraud.

President Sirleaf says this vote is about a generation of Liberian children whose sleep and schooling have never been interrupted by gunfire. In a country still recovering from 14 years of civil war, she says that future is imperiled by an opposition boycott.

“We must cherish this peace," Sirleaf said.  "We must nurture it and ensure that our path is irreversible.  Mr. Winston Tubman has called on Liberians to give up their franchise, their right to vote.”

President Sirleaf says Tubman's boycott violates the constitution, ignoring the fundamental laws that Liberians have agreed to uphold.  Tubman says the president is misleading voters and distorting the constitution because people have the right not to vote.

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“There is nothing in our laws that compel Liberians to vote.  They have the freedom to vote or not to vote.  And to call upon them to vote or not to vote is no violation at all,” Tubman said.

Voters weigh in

So what do voters think about an election that is no longer a choice between two candidates and is more a choice between voting and staying home?

Bobby Gibson, a member of Tubman's party, says President Sirleaf is deceiving herself if she thinks Tuesday's vote will have any legitimacy.

“What will happen on Tuesday is that it will just be a merrymaking for Madame Sirleaf and her agents because they will just be going there, marching there to go and vote for themselves," Gibson said.  "But we will not be going there to vote for our candidate because we know that the process is not going to be transparent.”

Tubman supporter Leena Seah says she is not voting because the president broke her promise not to seek a second term.

“I am not voting.  Ellen's one is now finished," Seah said.  "We want for Ellen to step down because the one term has past.  So now now I am not voting."

Undecided

Vestor Bestman is a member of Tubman's party who admires President Sirleaf, but has not yet decided whether he will go to vote.

“A county coming from 14 years of civil war you don't expect to live on a silver platter.  We have to pass through stress and strains.  So she did well.  She is doing well.  She touched the health sectors.  She touched the education sectors. She touched the developmental sectors," Bestman noted.  "I must commend her for what she did.  I must applaud her and give her that respect.  I wish she could sit another term.  Then we could see how best our country will go forward.”

Sirleaf supporter Amelia Jones says the president has made remarkable progress in rebuilding Liberian infrastructure so soon after the end of fighting.  Jones says Tubman's CDC party has given up because they know they will lose.

“She made the country to be in peace.  She filled roads, water, current, and she made us to sleep sound.  CDC, to me, they gave up.  They can't make it.  We don't want him," Jones said.

The opposition boycott ensures the president's re-election. The question now is one of turn-out. The president's campaign is hoping for numbers that approach the more than 70 percent of voters who took part in last month's first round. The opposition says low turn out will undermine the legitimacy of her mandate and call attention to their claims of electoral fraud.

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