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Liberia's Sirleaf eyes reconciliation after landslide win

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf pledges to involve opponents in her second term of presidency after winning a landslide victory in a poll that was boycotted by her top rival over fraud allegations

Reuters , Friday 11 Nov 2011
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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Photo: AP)
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Newly-named Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won 90.8 percent of votes in Liberia's elections, according to tallies returned from more than 86 of the country's polling stations. More results are due on Friday.

But her victory was tainted by low turnout for Tuesday's poll, which highlighted simmering tensions in the West African country instead of solidifying the fragile gains made since 14 years of civil war ended in 2003.

At least two people were killed as authorities broke up an opposition protest on the eve of the election and supporters of her main challenger, former UN diplomat Winston Tubman, have said they do not recognise Johnson-Sirleaf's win.

Her Unity Party's failure to win a majority in parliamentary elections held last month may boost the need for her to seek allies, although she has not specified whether that will run to government posts for Tubman or other opposition leaders.

"I will reach out to all the presidential candidates. What I will offer them is not yet known," she told reporters on Thursday.

In a separate interview with UN Radio, she said the fact she was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize days before the first round of voting in October meant she now had to go "the extra mile" in promoting reconciliation.

"We are going to reach out to everybody and ensure that they have a participation in what we do," she said.

Stability in Liberia is a vital piece in the overall security make-up of West Africa, a region trying to move on from decades of civil wars and coups in countries such as Ivory Coast, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Tubman, who was a senior aide to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, scored 9.2 percent. His name was left on ballot slips despite his decision to withdraw from the run-off, alleging irregularities in the first round of voting.

Provisional turnout for the run-off was just 37.4 percent, barely half the first-round figure when excited Liberians queued in the rain to cast their ballot.

International election observers say voting has been broadly fair, but the violence and the low turnout has prompted calls on Johnson-Sirleaf to do more to heal divisions.

"The Liberian efforts for inclusion now must accelerate," John Stremlau of the Carter Center observer mission said.

Tubman alleges that authorities made an attempt on his life as they broke up Monday's opposition rally—an accusation the government strenuously denies—and said ahead of the results that any form of power-sharing accord was unlikely.

Tubman on Friday declined further comment until the full results were known. But several supporters of his CDC party have said they would not accept the outcome.

"The election is not correct. It is not correct because the turnout is poor. I am a CDC supporter and I did not vote," said Nora Wilson, 45, a used-clothing saleswoman in Monrovia.

Critics say Johnson-Sirleaf, while at least keeping Liberia on an even keel after a war that claimed nearly a quarter million lives, has not done enough to spur development in a country where average income is less than a dollar a day.

She told UN Radio she would count on UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and child welfare body UNICEF to supplement local efforts to tackle poverty.

Liberia is hoping iron ore resources being mined by groups such as ArcelorMittal will find reconstruction.

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