Liberia election: Large turnout in Sirleaf-Tubman vote

 
People wait to vote during the presidential election at a polling station of Allasala Town, Bomi county October 11, 2011 Many Liberians started to queue before dawn

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Liberian voters have braved heavy rain to cast their ballots in the country's second election since the end of a 14-year civil war.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, is expected to face her strongest challenge from former UN envoy Winston Tubman, a nephew of an ex-president.

Both candidates praised the peaceful and disciplined nature of the vote.

Africa's first elected female head of state was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week.

But Mr Tubman, 70, says she has not done enough to tackle corruption.

Mrs Sirleaf won the 2005 election after the conflict ended in 2003.

She defeated former football star George Weah, who is Mr Tubman's running mate this time.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in the capital, Monrovia, says hundreds of people started queuing to vote before dawn at polling stations in the city centre.

Start Quote

One out of every three Liberians cannot feed themselves... They couldn't care less about the Nobel prize”

End Quote Charles Brumskine Opposition candidate

John Plato, 60, waiting for four hours before voting at a school in Monrovia.

"I feel very happy having cast my ballot. These elections are crucial in the eyes of Liberians and the international community and so it was important for me to vote to be part of the history-making process of the country, " he told the AFP news agency.

This is first election the National Elections Commission has organised as the previous one was run by the UN.

President Sirleaf praised the voters for their patience and discipline.

"I feel so good for the Liberian people, they have demonstrated a certain level of political maturity."

Mr Tubman told the BBC that turnout was "huge" - a sentiment backed by former Nigerian head of state Yakubu Gowon, who was observing the the election.

"The rain has not dampened the enthusiasm of the electorate to come and cast their vote," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

'Abject poverty'

Mrs Sirleaf had said she would only seek a single term but explained her U-turn by saying she wanted to finish the work she had started.

Liberia's presidential rivals

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:

  • Africa's first female elected head of state
  • Harvard-trained economist
  • Finance minister before Samuel Doe's 1980 coup
  • Twice forced into exile
  • Initially backed then-rebel leader Charles Taylor before falling out with him
  • Won 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for helping end Liberian conflict

Winston Tubman:

  • Nephew of Liberia's longest-serving President William Tubman
  • Harvard-trained lawyer
  • Justice minister under Samuel Doe
  • UN envoy to Somalia from 2002 to 2005
  • Came fourth in 2005 election
  • Running mate is ex-football star George Weah

Fourteen other challengers

Our correspondent says central Monrovia has been transformed since the end of the war, with roads paved and many new buildings.

While Mrs Sirleaf is well regarded by the international community, some analysts say she is less popular at home and predict a tight race, possibly going to a run-off.

Her 15 challengers accuse her of not doing enough to improve the lives of ordinary people, who remain among the poorest in the world.

"One out of every three Liberians cannot feed themselves. They live in abject poverty. And they couldn't care less about the Nobel prize," said 60-year-old opposition candidate Charles Brumskine.

Mrs Sirleaf has also been criticised for backing former President Charles Taylor - currently on trial at The Hague for alleged war crimes - when he began his rebellion in 1989.

She has apologised and the pair later fell out but Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission said she should be barred from holding public office.

The campaigning was generally peaceful but some 8,000 UN peacekeepers have been deployed across the country to prevent any violence.

Voters were also choosing members of the House of Senate and House of Representatives.

Liberia is Africa's oldest republic - it was founded in 1847 by freed US slaves, hence its name.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 9.

    Liberia is the oldest country in Africa, but do we look like the oldest African republic? Do we represent an African country or we are behaving like something we are not. well, I think is time now we combine both being nationalistic and patriotic. Will this election change the country as a whole , or will it be a day thing? i just pray for peace in Liberia especially in this time of election.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    Corruption will not take one presidential term for any leader because it is a systemic problem that require the entire nation to solve. When President Sirleaf come to power, she met a broken country, a collapse economy, a nation lock of credit worthiness, a nation with a very bad national and international reputation, broken infrastructure, dysfunctional institutions, and a nation with refugees.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    This is another good story following last weeks Nobel Peace prize. It's great that the people of Liberia feel confident enough to cast their vote & to have their say for their future. May it be a brand new dawn for that country & whichever candidate wins, may they put the people first & may they be fine recipients of that important peace prize. That it reflects well on themselves & their people.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    Ellen has been the glamour girl of women politics in Africa. She has been president for the international community more then Liberia. Today the Liberian people will vote against pervasive corruption with impunity. That does not sound good for the glamour girl.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 2.

    We are very proud of this woman! She has transformed the country's image, from a nation known for its mass graves and its scenes of execution, to one that is now considered a decent democracy in just 6 years, a feat that her predecessors --male dorminated leadership could not achieved. she enjoys decentralized support unlike her major contenders with support mainly in the capital.

 
 

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