16 - 10
By Lisa Vives
Voters in Liberia were lining up at dawn last week to choose new leadership for a nation whipsawed by health and other challenges under the 12 year administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
As of Monday, out of a field of 20, the top vote getters were George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change leading with 39 percent of total votes cast, trailed by Joseph Boakai’s Unity Party with 29.7 percent.
With neither candidate polling more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off is required between candidates. Final vote tallies, certified by Liberia’s National Election Commission, will be announced by Oct. 25.
While the polls were generally peaceful, they were far from flawless, according to some of the underperforming candidates.
“The October 10 elections did not pass the minimum standards required for free, fair and transparent elections,” Liberty Party candidate Charles W. Brumskine, a U.S.-trained lawyer and one-time ally of president Charles Taylor, declared.
“…Gross irregularities and fraud undermined the integrity of the elections and deprived thousands of Liberians of their constitutional rights to vote… The results of these elections are not valid,” he told journalists on Friday.
Brumskine, who eked out only 9.8 percent of the vote, listed the stuffing of ballot boxes by an election official, the alleged breaking of a ballot box seal in Bassa, the late opening of polls at some centers, and the omission of names from the voter rolls, as some of the irregularities.
Similar flaws were cited by the Alternative National Congress, the Coalition for Democratic Change, and by observer John Dramani Mahama, former president of Ghana, and some 2,000 other local and foreign observers including the Carter Center and the African Union.
Frequent polling updates have been published on Bush Chicken, an online news site.
With the original 20 candidates now whittled down to two, voters must choose between 51-year-old Mr. Weah, who has served in the senate since 2014, and 72-year-old Mr. Boakai, commonly known as “Sleepy Joe” for napping at public events.
Mr. Weah, a former star in soccer, is running with Jewel Howard Taylor, the estranged wife of imprisoned ex-President Taylor. He has campaigned on promises to fix the country’s broken health-care system and improve social services.
Mr. Boakai, a former agriculture minister who holds a business-administration degree from Kansas State University, has promised to build more roads to connect farmlands to urban centers.
But he has received lukewarm support from Ms. Sirleaf, who hasn’t attended any of his campaign rallies. w/pix of voters at Liberty Party rally