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Liberia Counts Vote as Johnson-Sirleaf May Face Second Round

Votes are being counted in Liberia as Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf may face a second round after presidential and legislative elections.

Polling stations closed late yesterday in the West African nation and tallying of ballots began immediately, Bobby Livingstone, director of press with the Monrovia-based National Elections Commission, said by phone.

The release of provisional results will start tomorrow, James Fromoyan, chairman of the elections body, said at a press conference. He said in an Oct. 9 radio statement that the final outcome would be given by Oct. 26

Johnson-Sirleaf, 72, faced 15 candidates including Winston Tubman, 70, a lawyer whose running mate is former A.C. Milan soccer player George Weah and 60-year-old lawyer Charles Brumskine. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote a second round of balloting will be held.

While Johnson-Sirleaf “could still win enough votes together with the other minor opposition candidates to push the polls into a second round, she is still likely to enter the second round lagging rather than leading the Tubman-Weah ticket,” said New York-based DaMina Advisors analysts including Sebastian Spio-Garbrah in an e-mailed note yesterday.

Liberians “turned out in large numbers to cast their votes in a peaceful manner,” said Nigeria’s former head of state Yakubu Gowon, who is overseeing the election-observation mission of the Atlanta-based Carter Center. The poll is a chance for Liberians to “be an example to other countries in the sub- region,” he told reporters at a voting station at the University of Liberia.

Civil War

The former banker was elected Africa’s first female president and has been working to rebuild a country devastated by a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 and left an estimated 250,000 people dead. On Oct. 7, she was named a joint winner of the Nobel prize for her work in promoting women’s rights.

Johnson-Sirleaf “has been quite successful in negotiating large mining contracts,” Joseph Lake, an analyst with London- based Economist Intelligence Unit, said in an interview on Oct. 6. “Unfortunately, the impact of the foreign investment her government has been able to attract has yet to be felt. The perception of corruption is widespread and there has been a relative lack of progress in terms of job creation.”

ArcelorMittal (MT), the world’s biggest steelmaker, started iron-ore shipments on Sept. 27. OAO Severstal, Russia’s largest steelmaker, is developing the Putu iron ore mine in a $2.5 billion investment and Chevron Corp. (CVX), the second-largest U.S. oil company, will start exploration drilling off the Liberian coast in the fourth quarter of this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Sesay in Monrovia via Accra at ebowers1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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