Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Long Wait to Vote in Liberia


Liberians queue for historic vote.

It is taking people hours to vote in the capital, Monrovia. A high turnout is predicted as voters in the West African state of Liberia queue to cast their ballots in historic polls to choose a president and MPs. With long queues under a searing tropical sun, there is frustration at the slow pace of the voting process. Poll officials announced that voting would be extended until midnight. There are 22 candidates standing for president, including ex-football star George Weah and former United Nations official Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Many have used umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun and complained of waiting for more than five or six hours to vote. In one polling station in the capital, Monrovia, just 50 people had voted in two hours, as hundreds of people waited outside. UN forces, first deployed after a peace deal in 2003 which ended a 14-year civil war, are helping calm tempers. The BBC News website's Joseph Winter in Monrovia says queues are starting to get shorter now, and one woman told him it only took her seven minutes to queue up and vote. Election officials told the BBC a long wait for many was inevitable.

They said the process of voting itself took a long time, as each voter has to mark three ballot papers. Voter education efforts as people reach the polling stations are also said to be slowing the process down.

BBC News Report by Joseph Winter in Monrovia.

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