Liberia's Johnson-Sirleaf leads early results

Incumbent president has won 44.5 per cent of votes counted so far, but needs a clear majority to avoid a run-off.

    Tuesday's vote was Liberia's second round of elections since the end of civil war in 2003 [Reuters]

    Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has won 44.5 per cent of votes counted so far in the West African country's election, with her nearest rival Winston Tubman on 26.5 per cent, according to the election commission.

    Commission chairman James Fromayah said on Thursday that nearly 195,178 valid votes, about 16.5 per cent of the total tally, had been counted so far.

    A total of 1.8 million Liberians were registered to vote. If no candidate scores an overall majority, a run-off between the two frontrunners will be held early next month.

    Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from the capital Monorovia, said: "Tubman's team only manged 26.5 per cent of the votes counted so far.

    "What is a concern to them is that of the counties where the polls have been annouced, some of these counties are supposed to be their stronghold.

    "Only 737 polling station results hve been announced, out of something like 4,500 polling stations.

    "The feeling is, particularly when you talk to the keen watchers of this election, that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is in a very, very strong position."

    Ex-rebel leader Prince Johnson was in third place with 19.5 per cent, which could make him a possible kingmaker in any second-round runoff.

    "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," Johnson told the Reuters news agency earlier on Thursday.

    No incidents

    Tuesday's voting passed off peacefully in Monrovia.

    Observer groups said they had received no reports of trouble elsewhere in the country of four million people, but expressed concern that the results could act as a flashpoint

    The Carter Centre, an election watchdog, said on Thursday that voting in the election was "peaceful, orderly and remarkably transparent" and urged Liberians to be patient ahead of official results.

    The election is seen as a test of Liberia's progress since the 1989-2003 civil war killed nearly 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.

    Johnson-Sirleaf was one of the three women to win the Nobel peace prize this year, announced just days before the vote. Her opponents claimed the prize gave the 72-year-old president an unfair advantage.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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