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Campaigning Wraps Up In Liberia With Large Weah Rally

Campaigning is wrapping up for Liberia's post-war October 11 election, to replace a transitional government following the 2003 ouster of former warlord Charles Taylor. The frontrunners in the crowded presidential race appear to be former soccer star George Weah and former government minister, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Sunday will be a church and rest day for most Liberians, but on Saturday, tens of thousands of political activists took to the streets in Monrovia, supporting their party colors. Most shops were closed.

The largest rally was for presidential candidate George Weah, representing the Congress for Democratic Change.

One of his supporters, Jersey, had turned a Weah poster into a colorful hat.

"George Weah is a good man who can rule this country," je said. "At least, he will give the young men something to do, the other politicians, they have no love for us. They brought war and do other things that bring us back [problems]. That's why we aren't going for that. We're going for George who was coming for us, sharing his love in hard times."

Other supporters sang a song about how others are educated, but that the city is dirty, suggesting a high school dropout like Mr. Weah can do better.

Many of his supporters are young, unemployed, former civil war combatants, and small time traders. Jersey predicts a first round victory for Mr. Weah with over 50 percent of the vote.

"We are dragging them, long distance for us," he said. "Nobody. Landslide. We are dragging them. No second round, I say to you."

But earlier in the week, supporters of former government minister Ellen Johnson Sirleaf held what they called a pre-victory march.

"She will change the Liberian people, she will make our children go to school, she will bring joy to our country," said one of her supporters.

Most of her supporters are women. Out of the 1.3 million registered voters, there are more women than men. But some of her supporters are men as well, who say gender is not the issue.

"We don't care whether it's a woman or not," said one of the men. "We want someone who can deliver that's all. We are not interested in the question of whether it's a woman or not. I mean this woman is not just an ordinary woman. She's a Harvard grad, she has worked with the World Bank, the U.N., and we know she can deliver."

There are 20 other presidential candidates, but their final rallies were much smaller. Over 700 candidates are competing for seats in a new two-chamber Congress. A large U.N. peacekeeping force in Liberia has been providing security.