LIBERIAN OPPOSITION CDC CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF TUESDAY’S RUNOFF VOTE
MONROVIA — Liberian opposition candidate Winston Tubman called Friday for a boycott of next week’s second-round run-off presidential election, but officials said the vote would go ahead despite the call.
“We officially inform the Liberian people and the world” that the Congress for Democratic Change will not take part in the vote on Tuesday, Tubman said at a news conference, calling on all Liberians to stay away from the ballot.
“Any government coming out of the November 8 process will be done without a national mandate to govern and will not be recognised by the CDC.”
Tubman called on party supporters to go to CDC headquarters on Saturday for a “national vigil for peace and transparent elections, to remind all of us of the enormous price Liberians have paid in blood and treasure to derive the democracy and peace we enjoy today.”
The acting head of the commission, Elizabeth J. Nelson, however told AFP the election will go as planned despite the boycott.
“We are under constitutional mandate to hold the run-off on the second Tuesday of November. We are going to do just that,” she added.
Opposition claims of fraud and irregularities in a first round of voting on October 11 have raised tensions in the country, which still relies heavily on an 8,000-strong UN peacekeeping force (UNMIL) for security.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 73, of the ruling Unity Party has the upper hand heading to the run-off, after winning 44 percent in the first round, falling short of an absolute majority.
Her campaign was buoyed by her being named a co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize just days before the first round vote.
Tubman came second with 32.7 percent.
Like Sirleaf, Tubman is Harvard-trained and has in recent weeks proved capable of playing political hardball.
Tubman said he met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja on Thursday to discuss his grievances.
“I am grateful to him for the seriousness with which he continues to treat the current Liberian electoral situation. I believe we had a frank exchange of views,” Tubman said.
Liberia’s presidential poll is seen as a litmus test of its fragile democracy and hard-won peace in the eight years since the end of a 14-year civil war in which some 250,000 people were killed.
While observers praised the polls as peaceful and transparent, Tubman said the process was flawed, citing pre-marked ballots, tampering with ballot boxes and incompetence by the National Elections Commission.
He then gave the elections commission a list of demands, including that its head James Fromayan step down — which he did — but just four days before the second round Tubman declared he is still not satisfied and won’t take part.
Former warlord Prince Johnson, who came in third with 11.6 percent, said he would support Sirleaf’s re-election bid in the run-off, demanding 30 percent of government in exchange.