News / Africa

Opposition Supporters Back Boycott of Liberian Presidential Vote

Polling agents count ballots for the Liberian presidential election at a polling station in Monrovia, October 11, 2011.
Polling agents count ballots for the Liberian presidential election at a polling station in Monrovia, October 11, 2011.

Liberia's main opposition party says it may not take part in Tuesday's presidential vote because the electoral commission is not fair. Electoral officials say the vote will go ahead as scheduled despite threats of an opposition boycott.

What is going to happen in Liberia Tuesday depends on who you ask.

Founding members of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change say the party will boycott a run-off election against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf unless all its demands are met. Those demands include a recount of ballots from the first round and an entirely new electoral commission divided equally between the CDC and the president's party.

But advisors to party candidate Winston Tubman say the former justice minister is still considering taking part in the vote. He is a relative newcomer to the party and angered more senior officials when he said this week that there would not be a boycott.

So what do party members think the CDC should do? Mary Musu wants to go to the vote, but only if its fair.

“I want for the people to be fair to the party because they have not been fair from the beginning," said Musu. "The election commission has not been fair to this party, and that is the thing that has brought the problems.”

The CDC says electoral commission chairman James Fromayan manipulated vote counts from the first round to give the president the lead. Fromayan resigned Sunday saying he did not want to give the opposition an excuse to boycott the run-off.

Party member Eaton Marshall says it is not about Fromayan but about the president trying to steal another term in office after he says she was fraudulently elected in 2005.

“Everyone thinks that CDC is the problem," said Marshall. "But we are not the problem. We gave our conditions and our conditions should be met. We are wanting that Ellen give way, that CDC leadership can come to power because in 2005 we won the election, and we accepted the result that was against us. Now the people have spoken again and we see a whole lot of fraud in the elections.”

Election observers from the Carter Center and the Economic Community of West African States say problems in last month's first round of voting did not affect the outcome.

CDC member James Songar says party supporters will make Liberia ungovernable if President Sirleaf tries to force through a second term.

“This is a revolutionary process. And we are stating to the world that we are revolutionists," said Songar. "And in the process we want transparency. And if Ellen forces her way to become president, definitely she will encounter problems. She will encounter future problems.

Lovette Dennis says there will be no election in Liberia on Tuesday.

“One person can't go for election," said Dennis. "So why would you say there will be an election on this coming Tuesday. How will it be? We don't want them to take advantage of us because Ellen is the ruling party, so they want to take advantage of the other people. It will not be fair.”

The electoral commission says there will be a vote Tuesday, and President Sirleaf will not be the only candidate. Because Tubman finished second, he is on ballot papers that have already been printed.

CDC member Archie Sannoh says he realizes the vote will go ahead as scheduled and the electoral commission will likely declare President Sirleaf the winner. But he says there is value in boycotting a vote that is not fair.

“It will help us because it will show to the world that we were cheated and our complaint was not listened to," said Sannoh. "So then we save our protest for future occurrence. Because when the world sees that a country that is going to democracy, one president can not go for election. It will jeopardize the democratic process of the country.”

Unopposed on the campaign trail, President Sirleaf says she hopes all registered voters turn out for the poll because that is their constitutional right. She says her opponents are trying to confuse voters by pretending to boycott the run-off election while actively campaigning behind the scenes.

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