Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has won 44.5 per cent of votes counted so far in the west African country’s election, the state’s poll body said yesterday as it released the first official tally.
That put the newly named Nobel Peace laureate well ahead of closest rival Winston Tubman on 26.5 per cent, but short of the overall majority she would need to avoid a second-round run-off against the former UN diplomat early next month.
Liberian national election commission chairman James Fromayan told a news conference yesterday the tally was based on 195,178 valid ballots counted so far in the election, for which 1.8 million Liberians were registered to vote.
Former rebel leader Prince Johnson, now a senator in rural Nimba county, scored 19.5 per cent, a result which if repeated in the final score could make him a kingmaker for either Ms Johnson-Sirleaf or Mr Tubman.
“If there is a run-off, I will get to my constituencies to ask them which way to go. Based on what they will tell me, I will then make a decision, but for now I cannot say anything. We represent a huge group of people,” Mr Johnson said earlier yesterday.
Mr Fromayan said there had been no formal complaints from any candidate so far, but added that Mr Tubman had made what he called an unsubstantiated complaint through unofficial channels that some ballot boxes had been broken into.
The vote is seen as a test of Liberia’s progress since the 1989 to 2003 civil war killed almost a quarter of a million people and left infrastructure in ruins.
If smooth, the election could pave the way to billions of dollars in investment in Liberia’s mining, energy and agriculture sectors.
“We are all waiting for the results and, from my perspective, I think they will be accepted,” said Amadou Kante, a resident of the Sinkor neighbourhood in the capital Monrovia.
Voting on Tuesday passed off peacefully in Monrovia. Observer groups said they had received no reports of trouble elsewhere in the country of four million people.
However, they have expressed concern that the results could be a flashpoint.
“The mission is of the view that there were no major irregularities and incidents of violence.
“It estimated that, on the whole, the elections of October 11th, 2011, were conducted under acceptable conditions of freedom of voters and transparency of the process,” said Attahiru Jega, head of the observer mission from the Economic Community of West African States.
Election watchdog the Carter Center said yesterday that voting in the election was “peaceful, orderly and remarkably transparent”, and urged Liberians to be patient ahead of official results.
Until the national election commission issues preliminary results, “political parties and candidates should refrain from any public statements that might undermine the process”, it said.
Ms Johnson-Sirleaf got a pre-poll boost with her award of the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, but rivals have said Liberians will judge her on her success in fighting poverty in a country with an average annual income of $300 a head.
A dispute over the results of the 2005 Liberian election, which brought Ms Johnson-Sirleaf to power as Africa’s first freely elected female head of state, triggered several days of rioting.