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liberia_election220.jpgSignaling potential trouble in a country with a history of political violence, nine opposition parties in Liberia on Saturday expressed dissatisfaction with a presidential election held last week, threatening to disavow the result when it is announced.

International observers have said the vote, in which the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is seeking re-election, was free and fair. Votes are still being tallied, and Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf leads in preliminary results, with about 45 percent of the vote, not enough to avoid a runoff.

But on Saturday, parties running against Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf issued a statement alleging fraud and saying that “if the process continues we will not accept the results.”

A spokesman for the main opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change, said that, despite these claims, it would not be pulling out of the race, and was merely “seeking an agreed process to conclude the counting.” The spokesman, Nimley Bestman, said: “Our standard bearer has not canceled his race.”

The party is led by Winston Tubman, a member of the American-descended elite that long ruled the country — to the detriment of the native population, historians say. But its real electoral draw is a popular former international soccer star, George Weah, the vice presidential candidate. As of Saturday, Mr. Tubman had 31.4 percent of the vote.

The country’s election commission is “in cahoots, collaboration and bias for and towards the ruling Unity Party,” Mr. Bestman said in a telephone interview from the capital, Monrovia, on Saturday. “Their actions are systematically in the interest of the Unity Party,” Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s party.

Those claims were angrily rejected by a Unity Party spokesman, who accused the opposition, which includes a notorious former warlord, Prince Johnson, of seeking to foment chaos in a country still recovering from a bloody 14-year civil war.

“These words are coming from political parties that don’t want to accept the result,” said the Unity Party spokesman Bushuben Keita. “They had this planned before. They want to put people in the streets,” said Mr. Keita, adding: “They have experience in creating this kind of civil unrest.”

Observers have so far found no significant problems with the Liberia vote, contradicting Saturday’s claims. “The voting process was peaceful, orderly and remarkably transparent,” the Carter Center said in a statement on Thursday.

On Saturday, Alexander Bick, director of the center’s observation mission, said the group stuck by that assessment.

Observers from the regional grouping of West African states, Ecowas, issued a similar statement after the vote.

Ecowas said “that on the whole, the elections of October 11, 2011, were conducted under acceptable conditions of freedom of voters and transparency of the process.”

Mr. Bick said that even if opposition parties announce that they are pulling out, current law suggests that the runoff would go forward anyway if Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf winds up with less than half the vote. “There is no legal provision for a candidate to pull out between two rounds,” Mr. Bick said.

James Fromayan, head of Liberia’s elections commission, did not respond to telephone calls and a message on Saturday.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/world/africa/liberians-count-votes-and-fraud-allegations.html?_r=1&ref=africa

Tag(s) : #Afrique de l'Ouest