News / Africa

Vote Counting Underway in Liberia

Election workers count presidential ballots by lamplight at a polling station in the West Point neighborhood of Monrovia, Liberia Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011
Election workers count presidential ballots by lamplight at a polling station in the West Point neighborhood of Monrovia, Liberia Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011

Vote counting is under way in Liberia's presidential run-off with incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf poised to win re-election following an opposition boycott over allegations of vote fraud. Three opposition radio stations remain off the air because the government says they threaten public safety.

Ballots are being counted across Liberia with the first results expected Thursday. But there is little doubt about the outcome as opposition candidate Winston Tubman dropped out of the race after accusing the electoral commission of fraud.

Voter turnout for Tuesday's run-off was low. Unofficial tallies by several observer groups say it could be as small as 25 percent. In comparison, more than 70 percent of registered voters took part in last month's first round of balloting.

Sirleaf supporters say many people stayed home because the opposition boycott ensured her victory. Tubman supporters say the low turnout undermines the credibility of a second term.

Tubman's running mate in the opposition CDC party - former football star George Weah - describes those who refused to vote Tuesday as true Liberians fighting for democracy.

"The turnout was poor. It shows that the major political party was out of the race, that's why you had the poor turn-out," said Weah. "CDC has the numbers. And when those numbers were pulled back, you are going to see the gap that you saw yesterday.”

In an interview with VOA, Weah said his party will remain resolute and peaceful.

“The election is over. Tomorrow they are going to announce Ellen Johnson as president. So what happens?" Weah asked. "Are we not Liberians?  We are still Liberians. We are going to move around freely and peacefully, but they need to protect all of us.”

United Nations peacekeepers remain outside CDC headquarters where at least two people were killed Monday in running battles between stone-throwing opposition supporters and riot police firing tear gas and live ammunition.

George Weah, a former soccer star and the running mate of presidential candidate Winston Tubman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), stands at the balcony after a news conference at his headquarters in Monrovia, November 5, 2011
George Weah, a former soccer star and the running mate of presidential candidate Winston Tubman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), stands at the balcony after a news conference at his headquarters in Monrovia, November 5, 2011

Weah says all Liberians appreciate U.S. President Barack Obama's call on Liberian authorities to allow peaceful protest.

"I listened to President Obama in Ghana [in 2009]. He said Africa doesn't need strong leaders. They  need good leaders," Weah said. "It is the time for the young people to take the mandate to lead. This is what the young people are doing. These are the messages we are listening to that inspire us to move forward, that inspire us to bring about democracy, that inspire us to bring about peace, that inspire us to stand to serve our country.”

Following Monday's violence, police closed three opposition radio stations, including Kings FM which is owned by Weah.

Deputy information minister Norris Tweah told VOA the justice ministry ordered those stations closed because the violence “provoked and necessitated” such action as “the state of the nation was at stake.”

The New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says it is outraged by the Sirleaf administration shutting down what it calls “essential voices for the opposition.”  The media rights group called on the government in Monrovia to withdraw the complaint and allow those stations to resume broadcasts immediately.

The court order calls managers of the three stations to a hearing Thursday, at which a judge will decide whether to uphold or rescind the broadcast suspensions.

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