Young Liberi­ans ea­ger to vote in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion

Liberi­ans have turned out in force for the coun­try’s gen­eral elec­tion.Twenty can­di­dates are com­pet­ing to re­place Africa’s first woman pres­i­dent, Ellen John­son Sir­leaf

The Daily News Egypt - - International -

DW—”The world is watch­ing us, let’s make them proud of us,” Pres­i­dent Ellen John­son Sir­leaf said in video state­men­tTues­day as Liberi­ans woke up to cast their bal­lots in the coun­try’s gen­eral elec­tion.

Vot­ers have de­scribed the event as cru­cial to the Liberia’s fu­ture. It’s the first time since the coun­try’s found­ing 175 years ago that a demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent is hand­ing over power to a demo­crat­i­cally elected suc­ces­sor.

Around 2 mil­lion vot­ers were el­i­gi­ble to cast their bal­lots at over five thou­sand lo­ca­tions across the coun­try. Most polling sta­tions opened on time, with vot­ers form­ing long lines from early in the morn­ing amid sig­nif­i­cant po­lice pres­ence.

First-time vot­ers

Many young peo­ple, pre­dom­i­nantly first time vot­ers, said they were vot­ing for change, bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, im­proved in­fra­struc­ture and peace. “I voted for change be­cause I want Liberia to be one of the best,” said 19-yearold Martha.“We want some­one who can build this coun­try for us.”

“I am vot­ing for the first time be­cause I want bet­ter leader for this coun­try and be­cause the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is very tough and school fees are going up,” said 18-year-old Maggie Grey. Twenty-one-year-old Jonathan Cooper said he was vot­ing “for a change of mind, a state of mind and a free Liberia for a bet­ter to­mor­row.”

Twenty can­di­dates are on the bal­lot, among them is po­lit­i­cal new­comer Alexan­der Cum­mings. The for­mer Coca-Cola ex­ec­u­tive sur­prised many with a large youth sup­porter base, many of whom chose to back him based on his busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence.

Cum­mings told DW after cast­ing his bal­lot that he was sat­is­fied by how the vot­ing was car­ried out and was op­ti­mistic he would make it into the sec­ond round. “Liberi­ans will choose a new, bet­ter and brighter fu­ture,” he said.“I am happy to be ex­er­cis­ing my fran­chise rights and I look for­ward to a fa­vor­able re­sult tonight and to­mor­row.”

Lo­gis­ti­cal and ob­ser­va­tional dif­fi­cul­ties

Mi­nor ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties were re­ported in polling sta­tions where some vot­ers could not find their names in the voter reg­istry.“Part of the chal­lenge is when you are deal­ing with a coun­try that has many ru­ral ar­eas, it took a while to get some of the bal­lots out,” said chief ob­server of the National Demo­cratic In­sti­tute,Gary Peters,who is a United States se­na­tor. “There are over 100 ca­noes that were in­volved in that process. It is going to take some time for those re­sults to come back.”

After what hap­pened in Kenya, when in­ter­na­tional ob­server mis­sions gave the elec­tion a clean bill of health but the coun­try’s supreme court nul­li­fied the polls, the Euro­pean Union’s chief ob­server Maria Arena said their man­date was dif­fer­ent this time around.“We are not here to say the elec­tion is free and fair, we are here to ob­serve and give per­haps some ad­vice to im­prove the sys­tem,” she said.

Many Liberi­ans be­lieve that be­cause Pres­i­dent Sir­leaf is re­luc­tant to sup­port her party’s can­di­date, Joseph Boakai, there would be less po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence from the rul­ing gov­ern­ment. But in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with DW, for­mer war­lord and pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Prince John­son is­sued threats to Sir­leaf to stay away from the elec­toral process.

“The only thing Sir­leaf can do in this elec­tion is to cast her bal­lot as a Liberian and go home,” said John­son, who is now a church preacher in the cap­i­tal,Monrovia.“If she does any­thing in this elec­tion she should ex­pect a civic re­ac­tion.”

Sir­leaf is step­ping down at the end of her two-term man­date to pave way for a“young can­di­date” to lead the coun­try.

Long lines be­gan form­ing at polling sta­tions around Liberia early on Tues­day morn­ing

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