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ECOWAS to Send More Observers to Monitor Liberia Run-off

Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) President James Victor Gbeho during a news conference on the election dispute in Ivory Coast by ECOWAS in Nigeria's capital Abuja, January 4, 2011.

The president of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says his organization will send a larger delegation to monitor Liberia’s November 8 presidential run-off.

The sub-regional bloc deployed over 150 poll observers across Liberia to monitor the first round of the October 11 presidential and legislative elections.

“We have a mandate from a protocol on democracy and good governance…that expects us to observe all presidential elections,” said Ambassador James Victor Gbeho. “[For] the second round, which is even more important, we might field an even bigger number to make sure that our observation is flawless. And also to make sure that we are in a position to certify whether that election or the run-off will be free fair and credible.”

He warned that ECOWAS has no tolerance for some candidates, who he said create problems after losing a vote. ECOWAS judged the first round to be free fair and transparent.

Gbeho called on the aggrieved parties to use available “constitutional means” to address their concerns.

“We are praying that the second-round also goes well as the first round in order to redeem the image of this country and also prove to everyone that the Liberian electorate is also very mature now,” said Gbeho.

He insists that ECOWAS does not favor any of the contesting presidential candidates in the upcoming vote. “We will all rally around whoever is elected, and make sure that the process of development is uninterrupted in that country.”

The leader of the ECOWAS poll observer mission, Attahiru Jega, who is also chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told VOA his group had “a range of experienced personalities from all over the West African sub-region as observers…It’s a very well composed team of experts, of people who have been concerned with issues of democratization and elections.”

Meanwhile, with nearly all the ballots counted, Liberia's National Elections commission said Monday that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has garnered 44 percent of the vote. Her top rival, former Justice Minister Winston Tubman, has won just over 32 percent. Former rebel leader and current Senator Prince Johnson came in third with nearly 12 percent.

Gbeho pleaded with the political parties to accept the outcome of the upcoming run-off, which he anticipates, will be free, fair and credible.

“We appeal to them [parties] to accept the verdict when it is declared. Unless there is a serious flaw with the verdict, which I do not hope will be the case,” said Gbeho.