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Liberian Ex-Finance Minister Poised to Become First Woman President in Africa

BY Admin  November 10, 2005 at 4:10 PM EDT

The Harvard educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led her opponent, former soccer star George Weah, 59.2 percent to 40.8 percent, according to a report filed by Reuters news service shortly before noon EST. Election officials said around 89 percent of Liberia’s polling centers had reported results.

Weah accused the Johnson-Sirleaf campaign of election fraud, specifically the stuffing of ballot boxes, charges election officials said they would investigate.

United Nations election monitors in Liberia reportedly said the election appeared “peaceful and transparent” and that they had received no reports of fraud from polling centers.

“The world is saying this election was free and fair, which was not true,” Weah said at a rally near his campaign headquarters, according to the Associated Press. Weah showed what he said were 39 fraudulent ballots, marked for Johnson-Sirleaf, which he said were among those used by her supporters to stuff ballot boxes.

But national elections supervisor Frances Johnson-Morris said the Weah camp had not produced any evidence of election irregularities.

“If there is evidence, they need to share that evidence with us within 72 hours. That’s the rule,” she told reporters. “We have not gotten any complaints of that sort.”

Weah and Johnson-Sirleaf were the top two finishers in the initial Oct. 11 election, but neither won a majority of votes, triggering the runoff.

The elections are the first in 14 years for Liberia, which has been ravaged by civil war and political unrest. In 2003 president and former warlord Charles Taylor, who was accused of fomenting civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone, stepped down as opposition forces closed in on the Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. U.N. forces were then sent to Liberia in an attempt to restore peace and a transitional government was set up pending the presidential election.

On Thursday, U.N. chief of mission in Liberia Alan Doss said U.N. forces would remain in Liberia after the election in order to help stabilize the new government.

“This is a big job and it going to require time and sustained assistance from the international community,” Doss told Reuters. “We have invested a great deal collectively, the international community, in Liberia and its return to peace. We mustn’t take precipitous action.”