Liberia president asks voters to ignore boycott

AP News
Posted: Nov 06, 2011 7:14 AM
Liberia president asks voters to ignore boycott

Liberia's president urged voters to go to the polls this week and to ignore a boycott by the opposition.

Campaigning for the Nov. 8 presidential runoff ends at midnight Sunday, and incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is likely to remain unopposed. Her supporters drove around Monrovia Sunday calling for support over amplifiers mounted on pickups.

Liberia's leading opposition candidate Winston Tubman had said he was pulling out of the presidential runoff election. He told The Associated Press Friday that he was boycotting the runoff because he was not convinced the process would be fair.

President Sirleaf accused Tubman of violating the constitution as she spoke to her Unity Party supporters in an address carried lived on radio and television Saturday.

"On Nov. 8, I urge you to go out and cast your vote for your favorite candidates," she said. "Do not succumb to fear and intimidation. Do not allow any politician to hold our country hostage."

"If this is how they run their party, think of how they would run this country," she said of Tubman and his Congress for Democratic Change party.

This is not the first time that Tubman's party has threatened a boycott. When it became clear in October that incumbent President Sirleaf was leading the first round of voting with over 45 percent, the Congress for Democratic Change joined seven other opposition parties in signing a statement saying they were pulling out of the presidential poll.

They rejoined the electoral process days later, after the chairman of the National Elections Commission resigned following allegations he favored Sirleaf, the country's Harvard-educated president who was just awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Sirleaf won the first round of voting but failed to reach the threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

Tubman's decision to boycott the runoff would guarantee victory for the country's ruling party but would rob the electoral process of its legitimacy.

"The election machinery is still flawed, as it was in the first round," Tubman said.

The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disappointed" by the decision of the CDC to boycott the runoff election.

"Participation in elections is a fundamental part of democracy," a statement attributed to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Saturday. "We commend all Liberians for their peaceful participation in the elections, and encourage all Liberians to exercise their political voice and vote."

It said the CDC's charges that the first round was fraudulent were "unsubstantiated." The international community, including the United States, will send observers to monitor the election process, it said.

Sirleaf is expected to address a rally before her house in the Sinkor district of Monrovia Sunday evening.