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Liberia Declares Johnson-Sirleaf Election Winner

Liberia's elections commission has officially declared Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf the winner of the country's first post-war presidential poll, making the former finance minister Africas first female head of state. Supporters of her rival, ex-football star George Weah say they may boycott seats they won in parliamentary elections.

Results made official by Liberia's National Elections Commission Wednesday gave the victor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf 59.4 percent of the total ballots cast. Her challenger former international football star, George Weah, finished with 40.6 percent.

The announcement was met with immediate celebration from supporters of Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, who were on hand at Monrovia's Centennial Pavilion when the results were announced.

A member of the new president-elect's Unity Party, former transitional government assembly member Dr. Mohammed Sheriff says he has high hopes for a Liberia led by what will be Africa's first female president.

"We have no doubt that this government will be a government of transparency, accountability, and, indeed, good governance," he said. "Where public funds will be used for the right intended purpose, where taxpayers money will be used with transparency and accountability."

Paul Risley, a spokesman for UNMIL, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia, says he is pleased with the manner in which the election process was carried out.

"This is the first truly free and fair, and probably the largest, election that Liberia has ever held," said Mr. Risley.

Presidential candidate Mr. Weah is alleging he was the victim of fraud in this month's run-off election.

Protests by his supporters in Monrovia briefly turned violent, as initial results put Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf ahead in the vote count.

International observers have deemed the vote free and fair.

Members of Mr. Weah's Congress for Democratic Change have said they will refuse to occupy the seats they won in legislative elections last month if the results of the presidential poll are not revisited.

UNMIL head Alan Doss told journalists Wednesday that the United Nations is ready to fund by-elections to fill the seats if CDC members follow through on their boycott threats.

UNMIL's Mr. Risley says, though investigations into the fraud allegations will continue, he does not expect any further problems from supporters of Mr. Weah.

"Supporters of Weah, while they may be dissatisfied, it's certainly been a very peaceful process. And they have made their complaints known through the legal system, through the National Elections Commission. And there is every expectation that this situation of peace will remain," he added.

The elections process, which began in October, ended a two-year period of transition following the departure of then President and former rebel leader Charles Taylor, who is currently living in exile in Nigeria. The previous 14 years had been marked by a recurring bloody civil war that left thousands of Liberians dead and forced hundreds of thousands more to flee the country.