Winston Tubman, who pulled out of the second round of Liberia’s presidential election claiming fraud, called Saturday for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s victory to be annulled and fresh elections held.
|Ellen Johnson Sirleaf|
The comments come just a day after Tubman had said he was willing to work with Sirleaf, despite his boycott which won him little sympathy abroad as international observers gave the first round a clean bill of health.
Tubman’s boycott raised tensions in the west African nation, whose second-post war poll had been billed as a chance to cement its fragile democracy eight years after a 14-year conflict that killed 250,000 ended.
Political tensions turned bloody on the eve of Tuesday’s election when police fired live bullets into a crowd of opposition protesters gathered for an unauthorised march amid a hail of stone-throwing and tear gas.
Tubman said Tuesday’s vote was “a political farce of the highest order and must not be allowed to stand.”
“As we speak our lawyers are busy working on all our legal options,” he told reporters, reading from a prepared statement after consultation with the Congress for Democratic Change.
“We believe everything that flows from Tuesday’s elections must be annulled and a new round of elections scheduled in a month. We will not recognise the so-called win of Mrs Sirleaf,” he added.
On Friday, Tubman had said that while his party would not recognise the results he was “prepared to heal the wounds of this country and to unite our country.
“Since Mrs Sirleaf will now claim she is the president and is recognised by the international community, we have to find a way to work with her and I believe it is not beyond our ability to find a way for that to happen,” he had said.
On Saturday however, in an apparent about-turn, he slammed Sirleaf’s Unity Party as “election hijackers”.
And he repeated his assertion that Monday’s shooting at CDC headquarters had been an attempt by Sirleaf’s forces to assassinate him. AFP journalists saw two bodies with gunshot wounds to the head.
No official toll has been released, and while Tubman said earlier up to eight may have been killed, he now says three are confirmed dead with many reports of CDC supporters missing.
The 70-year old former UN diplomat pulled out of the race claiming “massive fraud in the tabulation process” in the first round. He brushed aside international observer’s assertions the poll was free and fair.
“Elections are won by votes and not strengths of political endorsement from observers,” he said.
The National Electoral Commission on Friday confirmed Nobel Peace Prize winner Sirleaf the landslide winner in polls with 90 percent of votes to Tubman’s 9.4 percent.
However Tubman pointed to the low turnout of 38 percent — attributed to the boycott and fears of further violence — as proof Sirleaf did not have wide support and that she had doctored the vote.
“They have now announced some highly inflated figures giving president Sirleaf a victory, or as she calls it, a renewed mandate … What mandate can this flawed process give her? What mandate did she ever have in the first place?”
Tubman referred to 2005 elections when his running mate, former AC Milan football star George Weah took on Sirleaf in the first polls after the end of a brutal 14-year war in 2003.
In a first round of voting Sirleaf lost to Weah but came back to narrowly beat him in the second. Weah, who at the time had not finished high school, was criticised for his lack of education and administrative experience.
The CDC cried foul, despite observers saying the process was free and fair. Weah later withdrew his claims and accepted the results, but the party still feels it was cheated.
This time round the party thought that with the dream team of Harvard-trained Tubman and the crowd-pleasing Weah as his running mate they were sure to win.
Sirleaf on Friday called for national reconciliation and announced an independent commission would probe Monday’s shooting which Tubman rejected as full of “partisans and friends of the president.”
Sirleaf also named fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, women’s right activist Leymah Gbowee, to lead a new peace and reconciliation initiative to heal the divisions in the country.