Source: The New York Times
MONROVIA, Liberia — Turnout appeared to be light as polls opened in a presidential runoff amid calls for a boycott of the vote and after a night of violence here that left at least one person dead as police battled opposition supporters.
The runoff between President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate and darling of the West, and the challenger, Winston Tubman, who called for supporters to boycott the vote amid accusations of fraud in the first round, may spell trouble for Liberia.
The election was supposed to help cement the country’s path toward stability and reconstruction.
At the St. Theresa Convent polling station near the American Embassy, only about a dozen people had voted hours after polling began at 8 a.m.
More people stood on the sidelines and watched.
“I’m not voting because what happened in my country yesterday,” said Kibie George, 32, a trader. “I’m afraid, and I’m bereaved. My brothers and sister died yesterday.”
Another opposition supporter, Daddy Boy Padmore, 27, spoke more bluntly: “They killed our people,” he said.
Hundreds of protesters, many aligned with Mr. Tubman, clashed with the police and United Nations peacekeepers in Monrovia on Monday afternoon and evening, leaving at least one person dead.
Mr. Tubman had vowed not to take part in Tuesday’s runoff, claiming fraud in the first round.
On Monday, businesses closed and pedestrians fled the streets as United Nations armored vehicles roared down Tubman Boulevard, Monrovia’s main artery. A running battle developed outside the opposition headquarters, pitting its supporters against peacekeepers and Liberian security forces, who fired tear gas and live rounds.
“Mother Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, she’s responsible,” said George Weah, a former international soccer star who is the opposition’s vice presidential candidate. “For shooting innocent Liberians, it’s wrong.”
The opposition headquarters were crammed with frenzied supporters after the clashes, and the body of a young man shot through the head was laid out in an upstairs room with other wounded, witnesses.
Liberia’s justice minister, Christiana Tah, said one person had been killed and three injured, but at the city’s Catholic Hospital, reports said at least seven people had been injured in the clashes, five with gunshot wounds.