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Liberian Candidates Trade Accusations of Voter Intimidation

Liberian opposition presidential candidate Winston Tubman, right, talks with running mate George Weah at a rally urging their party's supporters to boycott next week's presidential polls, in Monrovia, Liberia Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011.

In Liberia, the president and the main opposition leader are trading accusations of voter intimidation three days before a presidential run-off election. The opposition is boycotting that vote because of what it says is electoral fraud.

Former justice minister Winston Tubman is calling on Liberians to boycott his Tuesday run-off election against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf because he says corruption in the electoral commission means that vote will not be fair.

In a nationwide address, President Sirleaf accused Mr. Tubman of violating the constitution by encouraging Liberians to give up their right to vote. “He has told people to violate the constitution and ignore the fundamental law which we as a people, as a community, and as a nation have agreed to uphold. When you start violating the constitution, where do you stop? If this is how they run their party, think of how they would have run our country," she said.

The president says Mr. Tubman is dropping out of the run-off because he knows he will lose. “We have made great sacrifices to be where we are. We are poised to make history. Do not succumb to fear and intimidation. Do not allow any politician to hold our country hostage. Do not allow Mr. Tubman to falsely claim boycott when what he is doing is forfeiting the right to the finals because he fears defeat," she said.

Mr. Tubman says the president is misusing the power of her office to wrongly accuse him of violating the constitution when all Liberians have the right to vote or not vote as they wish. “It seemed to me that the president was trying to intimidate me. If I call for a boycott, it is my right to do so. It's no violation of the constitution to call for a boycott. I have a right to make that call. And the people I am addressing that call to have the right to respond or to reject it. So to call that a violation of the constitution is a stretch," he said.

Mr. Tubman says President Sirleaf is trying to put his call for a boycott in an “unenviable light” so as to make voters fear staying home on Tuesday, a move that he says undermines peace. “She wished to silence me. She wished to make the Liberian people look upon what I am doing as something wrong. But she is mistaken because what I have said is supported by most Liberians," he said.

Mr. Tubman's party says last month's first round of voting was fraudulent because electoral officials changed vote totals.

Election observers from the Carter Center and the Economic Community of West African States say problems in the first round did not affect the overall outcome.

President Sirleaf won more than 40 percent of the vote in the first round. Mr. Tubman won more than 30 percent.