Opposition leader to take part in Liberia run-off


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The Independent Online

Liberia's main opposition leader will take part in a run-off against Nobel peace prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf despite protests over alleged fraud in the first round of the presidential vote.

Former UN diplomat Winston Tubman confirmed yesterday that he will contest the second round in November and sought to calm supporters in the West African nation whose fragile recovery from civil war has been threatened by a bitter election campaign.

"We have not pulled out of the election," he told The Independent after a tense weekend in the capital Monrovia where there were protests over alleged vote rigging yesterday.

The final results of last week's vote, released last night, showed incumbent Mrs Johnson Sirleaf with a healthy first-round lead, followed by Mr Tubman and former warlord-turned-populist- politician Prince Johnson in third place.

An announcement on Saturday that opposition polling agents were withdrawing from the count briefly threatened to throw the electoral process into chaos. However the move came from Mr Tubman's vice-presidential running mate, George Weah, and Mr Johnson, who has been proclaiming himself the kingmaker. They have subsequently been persuaded to back down.

"There were people who wanted us to pull out altogether but I could not see the advantage," said Mr Tubman, before addressing a rally of Congress for Democratic Change supporters.

The Harvard-educated ex-diplomat was brought in to lead the CDC campaign to add experience to the popular appeal of former football star Mr Weah. However, the pair have struggled to get on privately.

International monitors pronounced the vote "free and fair", but the slow release of results by the National Election Commission stoked concerns over irregularities. Opposition officials accused the commission of deliberately withholding results from areas where its support was strongest.

Tensions will be high ahead of the 8 November run-off, with both of the leading candidates hoping to win support from the smaller candidates.