Tubman willing to work with Sirleaf

2011-11-12 09:39

Monrovia - Liberia's opposition leader Winston Tubman said on Friday he was willing to work with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after disputed polls left the war-scarred nation more divided than ever.

Africa's first female president was confirmed the victor on Thursday, a foregone conclusion after Tubman pulled out of Tuesday's run-off vote and urged his supporters to boycott the polls over fears the process was rigged.

Election observers found the poll was free and fair, but lamented low voter turnout as many heeded the boycott call or stayed away fearing violence after police opened fire on opposition protesters at a rally on the eve of the poll.

Tubman repeated his earlier stance that his party would not recognise the results but 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."

The National Elections Commission announced that with results tallied from 86.6% of polling stations, Sirleaf had won 90.8% of votes cast and Tubman 9%.

Only 37.4% of the country's 1.8 million registered voters cast their ballots.

"I think the real telling thing is the low turnout," Tubman told AFP and French radio in an interview in his garden early Friday.

"We have shown that this party doesn't have the support... What they couldn't conceal were the empty polling stations."

Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Sirleaf insists her reelection was legitimate, but she faces a tough second term with her nation more divided than ever after the tainted election process.

She has extended a hand of friendship to opposition parties, saying she hoped to put together an inclusive government as she had when she was elected in 2005, just two years after the end of a brutal 14-year conflict.

"I will reach out to all the presidential candidates," Sirleaf told reporters in Monrovia.

Tubman, lying in a hammock on his verandah as rain poured outside, said his party was "not for sale", while recognising that he would have to work with the president for the sake of the country.

He said he was trying to convince the youth in his party that peace is the most important thing for Liberia, and not personal ambition.

"A lot of our young people want to be on the streets now, it is taking a lot for us to try and restrain them," he said.

The poll had been billed as a chance for the war-scarred nation to cement its fragile democracy and hard-won peace eight years after the end of a long and savage conflict which left some 250 000 people dead.

Local newspaper headlines read "Ellen Triumphs" and "Ellen leads by wild margin" while editorials reflected on the need for reconciliation.

The Front Page newspaper said: "The opposition must be willing to accept olive branches ... six years is a long time for anyone to continue holding grudges."

"The bottom line remains that while poverty, corruption and unemployment at a staggering 80 percent remain the major challenges for the post-war nation, it is no doubt that reconciliation remains the most pressing challenge for Liberia."

The 200-strong Economic Community of West African States observer mission said the poll "met the acceptable conditions of being free, fair and transparent".

The Carter Centre's 52-person observer mission said the vote was "conducted transparently".

"Regrettably, the election was marred by an opposition boycott, violence on the eve of the election, and low voter turnout."

The United States urged Liberians to "peacefully accept" the results.

"We're obviously concerned and expressed those concerns about pre-election violence, and we continue to monitor very closely the situation on the ground," state department spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters.

Sirleaf said she would establish an independent commission to investigate Monday's shooting, after police admitted that live rounds were fired as tensions soared between protesters and security forces.

Journalists saw two bodies with gunshot wounds to the head following Monday's incident but no official figures have been released.