The top challenger in Liberia's presidential race said Sunday that opposition parties may reconsider their decision to pull out of the process over claims of rigging, as no majority winner has emerged and the contest appears poised to enter a second round.
Second-place candidate Winston Tubman spoke Sunday as hundreds of opposition supporters gathered at a rally in Liberia's capital over claims that poll results were being skewed in favor of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Meanwhile, election officials prepared to release the last results from Tuesday's poll.
A group of eight opposition parties including Tubman's announced Saturday that they were pulling out over those claims. They threatened to refuse to accept the results.
But with some 80 percent of polling stations counted late Saturday, Sirleaf, with 44.6 percent of the vote, has so far failed to win the majority she needs to prevent a second round.
"Now that we've made the point, now that, in fact, no first-round winner is to emerge, I will be telling my party members and our collaborators in this effort that we should continue, go back and participate fully in the count so that process can be speeded up as expeditiously as possible," said Tubman, whose share of the vote increased slightly to 31.4 percent in the latest results released Saturday.
At Sunday's rally, the secretary-general of Tubman's party assured supporters that the party would prevail.
"We are in a comfortable position against the ruling party," Acarous Gray told the crowd.
A runoff would pit Sirleaf against Tubman, whose running mate has appealed to voters by portraying Sirleaf as an Ivy Leaguer who is out of touch with the country's impoverished population. Tubman and Sirleaf both attended Harvard, but Tubman's campaign is bolstered by populist appeal of his vice-presidential candidate, soccer sensation George Weah.
Sirleaf was Africa's first democratically elected female president. She is viewed abroad as a reformer and was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her role in stabilizing the West African nation after a 14-year civil war.
Challenger Prince Johnson remains in third place with 11.2 percent. He has said he is looking forward to playing the role of kingmaker.
International and local election observers said Tuesday's election was peaceful, and there were no major breaches in voting and no serious incidences of violence.