* First official results expected Thursday
* Unofficial tally puts Johnson-Sirleaf ahead
* Voting in second poll since war hailed free and fair
By Richard Valdmanis and Alphonso Toweh
MONROVIA, Oct 13 Liberia is to release a first
batch of official results on Thursday from its hotly-contested
presidential election, in which Nobel laureate Ellen
Johnson-Sirleaf is seeking a second term.
The vote is seen as a test of Liberia's progress since the
1989-2003 civil war killed nearly a quarter of a million people
and left infrastructure in ruins. If smooth, the election could
pave the way to billions of dollars in investment in Liberia's
mining, energy and agriculture sectors.
"We are all waiting for the results, and from my
perspective, I think they will be accepted," said Amadou Kante,
a resident of the Sinkor neighbourhood in the capital Monrovia.
A local media association, the Liberia Media Center (LMC),
published unofficial partial results on Wednesday showing
Johnson-Sirleaf just ahead of her main rival Winston Tubman,
with just over 96,000 votes to his nearly 80,000 of a total
220,000 votes counted.
Around 1.8 million Liberians registered for Tuesday's
election, the second since the fighting and the first to be
organized locally. If no candidate wins an outright majority,
the two front-runners from a field of 16 will go into a run-off
vote scheduled for early November.
Ex-rebel leader Prince Johnson was a distant third with just
under 20,000 votes, the LMC said, adding the tally was based on
its reporters calling in results that are being pinned up at
polling stations across the country.
Official preliminary figures will be released by the
National Election Commission on Thursday. Many voters were tuned
to radio or television stations as the LMC's unofficial tally
Voting on Tuesday passed off peacefully in Monrovia.
Observer groups said they had received no reports of trouble
elsewhere in the country of four million people, but have
expressed concern that the results could be a flashpoint.
"The mission is of the view that there were no major
irregularities and incidents of violence. It estimated that on
the whole, the elections of October 11, 2011 were conducted
under acceptable conditions of freedom of voters and
transparency of the process," Attahiru Jega, head of the
observation mission from West African bloc ECOWAS, said on
Johnson-Sirleaf got a pre-poll boost with her award of the
Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, but rivals have said Liberians
will judge her on her success in fighting poverty in a country
with an average annual income of $300 a head.
A dispute over the results of the 2005 election that brought
Johnson-Sirleaf to power as Africa's first freely elected female
head of state triggered days of rioting.