Africa’s first democratically elected female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week – faces a strong challenge in Tuesday’s election from her long-standing rival Winston Tubman who has teamed up with ex-football star George Weah in a bid to oust her.
As Mrs Sirleaf made a final push for votes, she dedicated the prize to the Liberian people and urged them to vote for her so that peace prevails following the end of a brutal 14-year civil war in 2003.
Mr Tubman – a Harvard graduate, like Mrs Sirleaf – has been dismissive of the Nobel Committee’s decision, arguing that the prize will not influence voters. Mr Tubman, 70, believes Mrs Sirleaf, 72, might have support in the West, but Liberia’s 1.8m voters – many of whom are still mired in poverty – will remove her from office.
In 2009, Liberia’s post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission implicated her in the civil war and recommended that she, along with about 50 other people, should be banned from public office.
Mrs Sirleaf rejected the TRC’s findings and is standing for re-election against Mr Tubman and 14 other candidates, despite a promise not to run for a second term.
“When the plane hasn’t landed yet, don’t change the pilots,” read giant billboards in the capital, Monrovia, promoting her candidature and that her of running mate, Vice-President Joseph Boakai.
Mrs Sirleaf’s campaign team cites Monrovia’s development as a symbol of her achievements.