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Opposition party: Liberia election 'was not free and fair'

From Christian Purefoy, CNN
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Sun October 16, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The opposition says it doesn't trust the National Elections Commission
  • They cite reports of ballot stuffing and irregularities
  • They say they will still participate in a November 8 runoff

(CNN) -- Opposition parties are protesting Liberia's election results, claiming irregularities in the voting process, but are ready to participate in a runoff next month, a spokesman for one party said Sunday.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a newly-named Nobel Peace laureate, received 44.6% of votes in 3,567 of 4,457 polling places, according to preliminary results released by the National Elections Commission.

But, "we don't trust NEC," said Samuel Tweah, spokesman for the Congress of Democratic Change, the main opposition party. The parties are "protesting the condition the election was reported by NEC due to irregularities."

"We are definitely going for a second round (of voting), but had to take a strong position," Tweah said. "... The election was not free and fair and irregularities marred the process."

According to the results, Johnson Sirleaf led diplomat Winston Tubman, who garnered 22.8% of votes, and former rebel leader Prince Yormie Johnson, who had 3%.

The winner must receive 50% of the tally to win. Final results of Tuesday's election must be reported by October 26.

The U.S.-based Carter Center said Thursday that the balloting was "was peaceful, orderly, and remarkably transparent." The center's election observation mission has been in Liberia since September 1, at the invitation of the NEC.

However, Tweah cited reports of ballot stuffing and discrepancies in the numbers.

"We are warning the international community to be more involved for a transparent election in the tally and reporting of results," he said. "But we are not staying away from the process."

The runoff is set for November 8.

After a 14-year civil war that devastated Liberia and left an estimated 250,000 people dead, voters are hoping for more peaceful and prosperous days ahead.

Johnson Sirleaf said she wants to preserve the peace.

"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 before the election.

Liberia faces many challenges: up to 80% of Liberians are unemployed and a majority live without basic necessities such as water and electricity.

The Congress for Democratic Change drew big crowds with its popular vice-presidential candidate: Liberia's most famous international football star, George Weah, Tubman's running mate.

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