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Liberia's Johnson-Sirleaf has unassailable lead in runoff

November 10, 2011 |  2:16 pm

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had an unassailable lead Thursday as votes were counted in a presidential runoff boycotted by her opponent, Winston Tubman.

With results counted from 86% of polling stations, Johnson-Sirleaf had more than 90% of the vote. Tubman, whose photo was still on ballot papers, received about 9%.

Tubman has vowed to reject the results of the runoff. Although Western observers said the initial poll was relatively free and fair, Tubman announced he would boycott the runoff because of alleged fraud. Opinion polls showed him lagging behind his rival.

Tubman called a rally on the eve of the runoff, which led to rioting. Police shot into the crowd and about four people were killed. Turnout for the vote was low, but it was unclear what was the main cause: fear of violence, support for Tubman's boycott or apathy.

Tubman then accused Johnson-Sirleaf of ordering his assassination at the rally, a claim dismissed by police as absurd.

The African Union, West African community ECOWAS, the United Nations and the United States all criticized Tubman's boycott. His decision leaves the country, recovering from a 14-year-civil war, on a knife's edge and threatens to derail the fragile peace.

Critics of Johnson-Sirleaf accuse her of being soft on corruption.


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-- Robyn Dixon

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Photo: Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf arrives at a meeting with members of the media Thursday at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, the capital. Credit: Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press