Liberians Await Results of Poorly Attended Run-off Election

Posted November 9th, 2011 at 4:30 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Liberians are awaiting the results of a presidential runoff election expected to hand a second term to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, while the government is standing by its decision to close three radio stations believed to be sympathetic to the opposition.

An opposition boycott, voter apathy and fears of violence all contributed to what election observers say was a turnout as low as 25 percent in some precincts for Tuesday's poll.

Challenger Winston Tubman urged members of his Congress for Democratic Change party to stay away from the polls because of alleged electoral fraud favoring Mrs. Sirleaf.

On Monday night, Liberia's government angered the opposition by shutting down three radio stations, including one owned by Mr. Tubman's running mate, saying they were broadcasting hate speech and inciting violence.

Deputy information minister Norris Tweah defended the move, saying recent violence “provoked and necessitated this action because the state of the nation was at stake.”

On Monday, clashes between Mr. Tubman's supporters and police left at least two people dead outside CDC headquarters in Monrovia.

The National Electoral Commission says it will begin releasing initial election results late Thursday. Mr. Tubman and his supporters have said they will not respect the results.

The U.S. State Department has said it is “deeply disappointed” at Mr. Tubman's decision to boycott the election, saying claims of voter fraud are unsubstantiated.

Election observers said the first round of voting last month was generally free and fair.

But some analysts worry that the boycott and low voter turnout at the runoff election could discredit President Sirleaf's government.

This is Liberia's second presidential election since the end of the country's civil war in 2003. Mrs. Sirleaf won the Nobel peace prize this year for helping Liberia recover from the war.