Electoral officials and observers of Tuesday's second round presidential election in Liberia are appealing for calm, and the acceptance of any results, following renewed allegations of cheating from one of the two remaining candidates, former soccer great George Weah. Mr. Weah says he won the presidency in the first round with more than 60 percent of the vote.
National Election Commission head Frances Johnson-Morris is urging Mr. Weah to stop what she calls reckless remarks. "I am really surprised that this young man would consistently make statements which have the potential to undermine the fragile peace that we have," she said. "He really needs to be discouraged from this kind of propaganda. It doesn't help anybody. You cannot try to undermine the security of the state. This is very unfortunate."
While voting earlier in Monrovia, Mr. Weah repeated unsubstantiated allegations that there was cheating in the 22 candidate first round, and that he should have won more than 60 percent, rather than the 28 percent he was credited with.
He said he hoped the second round would be acceptable to all Liberians, including himself. "We have to be responsible to be free and fair because Liberia has never had a democratic process before for a long time," said Mr. Weah. "This is the first time and everybody's hoping that there will be any process that will make everybody happy."
His opponent, former finance minister Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who got nearly 20 percent in the first round, also said she was confident of winning. She voted in Tubmanburg.
She is urging all Liberians to accept results, amid fears that if Mr. Weah loses, his supporters, among them many young, poor, illiterate and former combatants, will riot. "We're not going to be confrontational,said Ms.Sirleaf. "We're going to be disciplined and we have stated categorically that we are going to accept the results of the election and that we will respect the choice of the Liberian people and we ask all Liberians to do that."
U.S Ambassador Donald Booth, who is leading an American delegation of observers, also urged calm in a country that is trying to move on from a quarter century of civil war and political turbulence.
"I would urge both candidates to refrain from any statements that would serve to detract from the validity of these elections and that might lead their supporters to think that anything untoward is happening," said Ambassador Booth. "I have not observed anything that would lead me to think that there is a problem with the way these elections are being conducted. The election process is going very well and I encourage everyone to stay calm, to accept peacefully the outcome of the election. The future of Liberia really is at stake here and this is a well-run election and people need to accept the outcome of these no matter what."
He said he thought turnout in Monrovia was about 60 percent during voting Tuesday, but much less in the interior. In one reported incident of violence, a supporter of Mr. Weah stabbed a supporter of Mrs. Sirleaf, after he had been told he would not know how to spell his name.
The United Nations 16,000 strong military and police force has said it will not tolerate any violence. Final results could take up to two weeks to be announced, but partial results could be released as early as Wednesday afternoon.