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Excitement as election fever grips Liberia

By Christian Purefoy, CNN
updated 12:24 PM EDT, Tue October 11, 2011
Supporters of Liberia's outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and presidential candidate, cheer on a street of Monrovia
Supporters of Liberia's outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and presidential candidate, cheer on a street of Monrovia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Liberians head to polls Tuesday amid excitement
  • Front-runner is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf the first African female president and Nobel Peace prize winner
  • Main opposition party's VP candidate is international football star George Weah

Liberia (CNN) -- Thousands of young men shouting, driving in pick-up trucks and taking control of the streets of Monrovia was, only a few years ago, a reason to flee.

They are scenes reminiscent of the 14-year civil war that devastated Liberia and left an estimated 250,000 people dead.

But today, these young men and women are thronging the streets of the capital in excitement - supporting their preferred candidates in the last day of campaigning in the nation's elections.

The front-runner : the first African female president, grandmother of three and newly-awarded winner of the Nobel Peace prize.

But what President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf really wants is to win re-election for a second term in office.

"Just to consolidate the gains, preserve the peace, to keep bringing the development - we've put in the fundamentals, the foundation - the possibility to reach our accelerated growth and development, fix our infrastructure, the potential and chances are so high," she said.

Liberians head to the polls

But President Johnson-Sirleaf has already broken one major promise - that she would not run for a second term.

Madame Johnson-Sirleaf - all the promises she made, she has never kept them - and the people are ready, you can see the excitement - that they're ready for a change
George Weah, soccer star and VP candidate

And many Liberians believe she has not fulfilled many of her first term campaign promises - with up to 80% of Liberians unemployed and a majority living without basic necessities such as water and electricity.

And there has been plenty of campaigning going on for Tuesday's election, some of it a little unorthodox - I saw one car handing out money to crowds as it drove through town!

The main opposition party - the Congress for Democratic Change - is drawing big crowds with their popular vice-Presidential candidate, Liberia's most famous international football star - George Weah.

"Madame Johnson-Sirleaf - all the promises she made, she has never kept them - and the people are ready, you can see the excitement - that they're ready for a change," he said.

Forty percent of Liberians are under the age of 14 and many believe that, at 72, President Johnson-Sirleaf is out of touch with the needs of the average Liberian.

"I promise them a good life, a life that is affordable. I want to see Liberians not suffering and to have light and water and healthcare," Weah added.

Desirable, but difficult promises to keep for any incoming administration in a country where many buildings in the capital are still riddled with bullet holes.

The voters themselves are split :"The process she started - we need a person who will finish that peaceful process," one said.
While another said: "She promised and she didn't do it - she promised and she never delivered."

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