Liberia vote to test post-war recovery

Fri Sep 9, 2011 3:51pm GMT

By Simon Akam

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberians will vote next month in their first domestically organised election since a 1989-2003 civil war, but logistical problems could threaten the process and undo fragile gains made under President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The stakes are high for the impoverished West African nation, still struggling to close the book on its bloody past eight years after the fighting ceased and eager to draw investment into its mining and energy sectors.

"It's a test of whether Liberians are ready to do politics by the ballot, and not the bullet," said Titilope Ajayi, a fellow at the International Crisis Group.

Johnson-Sirleaf, who became Africa's first woman head of state when she was elected in U.N.-organised polls in 2005, will seek re-election in the October 11 vote.

Electoral workers are now racing against the clock to complete preparations for the poll after a referendum turned down the government's proposal to delay it past the rainy season.

Now Liberian voters will have to contend with washed out roads in a country already notorious for a lack of working infrastructure. And while the United Nations is providing helicopters to move voting materials, the election commission says the final leg from regional warehouses to the polling stations in the bush will be tough.

"I am concerned as a Liberian, the way I see things.... the timeframe ..." said one former Liberian journalist who did not want to give his name.

The election will be the nation's second post-war presidential poll, but only the first one organised by local authorities instead of by the United Nations.   Continued...

A Liberian child stands in front of an election poster for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the Liberian capital Monrovia, September 8, 2011.   REUTERS/Simon Akam
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