Liberia's Sirleaf heads for landslide in boycotted poll

MONROVIA Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:53pm EST

1 of 4. Incumbent Liberian President and this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf attends a news conference in the capital Monrovia, November 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly

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MONROVIA (Reuters) - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf looked set to claim a second term Liberia's president after an election run-off boycotted by her main rival, according to votes tallied by Thursday.

Johnson-Sirleaf, who was joint winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, scored 90.8 percent with returns in from 86 percent of polling stations, election commission chairwoman Elizabeth Nelson said.

Opponent Winston Tubman, whose name appeared on ballot slips even though he dropped out of Tuesday's election alleging fraud, scored just 9.2 percent,

The provisional turnout figure was a mere 37.4 percent -- barely more than half the figure in October's first round, when Liberians queued in the rain to vote in the second presidential election since the end of a civil war in 2003.

Nelson released the figures at a news conference in the capital Monrovia.

Former U.N. diplomat Tubman complained before the poll that the election commission was biased and has said he will reject a Johnson-Sirleaf victory.

There was not immediate reaction from the Tubman camp but his supporters voiced their complaints.

"The first round results were fraudulent and these results are fraudulent too. She doesn't have the support of the people and I will not recognize her as president," said Gabea Gbotoe.

However, minutes before the partial results started emerging, Johnson-Sirleaf insisted the election had been fair and that she would have full legitimacy to claim a second term.

"The process is totally legitimate as it meets the requirements of our constitution," she told reporters.

Her 44 percent in the first round was proof of her support, she said, adding: "I consider that a mandate."

Johnson-Sirleaf nonetheless added she could "reach out" to rival candidates in a spirit of reconciliation.

When asked about a possible post for Tubman, Johnson-Sirleaf said: "I will reach out to all the presidential candidates. What I will offer them is not yet known."

"I am confident we will be able to reconcile the people."

On Monday, police used tear gas, truncheons and live rounds to disperse hundreds of Tubman supporters who had spilled onto a highway near their headquarters to protest against the vote. At least two people were killed.

In the first statement by a major observer mission, the U.S.-based Carter Center said on Thursday voting was generally free and fair despite violence on the eve of voting and a low turn-out on the day.

Liberia wants to put the conflict behind it and use its iron and other resource wealth to rebuild. Critics of Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first freely elected female head of state, say progress in her first term was too slow.

Liberia received a blow to its reconstruction hopes on Wednesday as tests from its offshore Montserrado well failed to confirm the presence of oil in commercial quantities.

(Additional reporting by Clair MacDougall; Writing by David Lewis and Mark John; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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