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Nobel Peace Prize winner set to win Liberian presidential runoff

November 8, 2011 |  5:30 am

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was set to retain power in a runoff election
REPORTING FROM NAIROBI, KENYA -- Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was set to retain power in a runoff election Tuesday after her opponent Winston Tubman boycotted the race.

Tubman urged his supporters to boycott the vote, and a riot erupted at the rally of his supporters on the eve of balloting. One supporter was shot to death by police, and at least four others were injured. A police officer was detained by U.N. peacekeepers on suspicion of using live ammunition.

Tubman and his supporters immediately claimed that Johnson-Sirleaf had ordered the shootings.

"It shows to you why the Liberian people are determined to get rid of this leader," he said. "She is somebody who will use violence against peaceful people."

Police closed down pro-Tubman radio stations overnight, news agencies reported, but there was no government comment as to why.

Tubman called for the boycott in the final week before the vote, claiming fraud in the first-round count, despite reports from international observers that the election was largely free and fair.

Johnson-Sirleaf won 44% in the first round to Tubman's 33%. Johnson-Sirleaf also won the endorsement of the third-place candidate, former warlord Prince Johnson, boosting her chances of victory.

Recent opinion polls showed Tubman lagging behind.

Tubman has been criticized by the African Union, the United Nations, the U.S. and observers for his boycott call, which threatened to derail the country's fragile peace.

The Atlanta-based Carter Center, founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which observed the vote, found that the first-round elections were conducted transparently and that the results represented an accurate and credible expression of the will of the Liberian people.

Although the center noted several problems during the campaign period and minor irregularities during voting, counting and tallying, it saw "no evidence of systematic irregularities or fraud."

It added that all Liberians had a right to vote or to choose not to, in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation.

Tubman's refusal to accept the result mirrored the actions of Nigeria's main opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in a presidential vote in April, which led to days of violence that saw people taken from their houses by Buhari's predominantly Muslim supporters and killed.

More than 300 churches were burned, police stations were attacked and more than 800 people were killed.

Johnson-Sirleaf, 73, a former World Bank official, became Africa’s first female elected president five years ago, after a ruinous 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. Tubman, 71, is a former U.N. diplomat who chose popular soccer player George Weah as his running mate.


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-- Robyn Dixon

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Photo: Liberian presidential candidate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf casts her ballot during elections at her home village of Fefee outside the capital, Monrovia, on Tuesday. Credit: Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters