Reports on todays national elections in Liberia appear to indicate that voting so far has been relatively peaceful, though tensions in the capital Monrovia remain high. The poll, which opened at 8am this morning, follows yesterdays violence in which 1 opposition supporter was killed and 4 others wounded as government police stormed the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) headquarters. Pre-election tension had been increasing in a country which is experiencing its second democratic election since the end of civil war eight years ago.
The refusal of Winston Tubman, a former UN official and presidential hopeful, to compete in the second round of voting and his subsequent call for a boycott by his supporters has cast doubts on the electoral process. Tubman has alleged fraud in favour of nobel prize winning incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first woman head of state. National and international observers, however, have refuted Tubman’s claims. Tubman, significantly behind in the first round of voting, is now considered by most analysts to be playing a dangerous game with Liberia’s still relatively fragile peace. By calling for a boycott he appears to be hoping to undermine the legitimacy of the new government resulting in the necessity for a government of ‘National Inclusion’ in which he may be able to secure a role.
Following Tubman’s boycott calls voter turnout does appear to be significantly down on previous rounds. Sirleaf will, undoubtedly, win the election but Tubman’s actions are casting a shadow over the process and the final impact on Liberia’s democracy project is yet to be revealed.