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15.10.2005 General News

Weah stretches lead in Liberia's presidential vote

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Monrovia, Oct. 15, GNA - With more than a third of the ballots in Liberia's Presidential Election counted, ace footballer, George Manneh Weah, has stretched his lead to 30.7 percent from 1,589 polling places, the Liberian National Elections Commission (NEC) reported on Friday. Mr Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change (DCD), had obtained 158,240 ballots out of the 534,559 votes counted, followed by Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party with 91,838 ballots representing 17.8 percent.

Lawyer Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party had polled 56,676 or 11 percent from the 74 percent of the polling stations covered. For the first time since last Tuesday when the NEC began announcing the results, heavily armed UN soldiers were deployed inside the briefing hall.

Explaining the presence of the armed soldiers in the hall, NEC Chairman Frances Johnson Morris told reporters it was part of a reinforced security arrangement.

However, diplomatic sources told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the security reinforcement could be the result of reports that some youth groups in the Montserrado area had threatened to storm the NEC because of their dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the release of the results from the capital.

The Montserrado County covers the capital, Monrovia and surrounding suburbs believed to be the stronghold of Mr Weah.

Shortly before the evening's briefing at the NEC, ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, made an unplanned visit to the main counting centre in the Virginia suburb.

Ballots from the county are being tallied at the centre. It is believed that the visit by the ECOWAS Executive Secretary followed allegations by the Weah campaign that some top NEC officials were deliberately stifling the free flow of results from the area. After being briefed on the various processes at the centre, Dr Chambas expressed satisfaction about the work of NEC but urged the officials to maintain standards and not to indulge in any activity that could fuel suspicion.