MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Partial results released by Liberia's National Election Commission show incumbent president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf leading with 90.8 percent of the vote.
This week's runoff vote was marred by opposition candidate Winston Tubman's last-minute withdrawal from the poll. According to preliminary results released Thursday, he received 9.2 percent of the vote.
His supporters boycott Tuesday's runoff election, and the turnout appeared to be as low as 33 percent.
The preliminary figures represent results from over four-fifths of polling stations.
Tubman claimed there was evidence of fraud, but international observers said his allegations were "unsubstantiated." Analysts worry the boycott has undercut the legitimacy of Sirleaf's victory and could flare tensions.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Hours before results were to be announced Thursday in a presidential runoff that was supposed to solidify Liberia's shaky peace, the nation's opposition leader said he would not accept the vote's outcome, a move that threatens to taint a ballot deemed transparent by observers.
Last week, Winston Tubman had called on his supporters to boycott Tuesday's presidential runoff, and many polling stations closed early due to the dismal turnout. The boycott guarantees re-election for Africa's first and only elected female head of state who according to unofficial results was leading with as much as 88 percent.
However, many fear it will delegitimize Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's victory since she was running unopposed and turnout was as little as 25 percent in some districts.
"Our decision before the runoff is that we would not accept the results," Tubman told The Associated Press by telephone from Monrovia, Liberia's sea-facing capital of pockmarked buildings that still bear the scars of the horrific 14-year civil war which ended in 2003.
"We're getting pressure from everywhere including the White House to partake in something we know is stacked against us," Tubman said. "The international community cannot see our case, and we wanted to bring this to their attention ... They should know we're not just making trouble. I'm not a trouble maker. They should not ignore us. This was a way that our voice was heard."
He has argued that the electoral process was biased in his opponent's favor, though international observers said that there was no evidence of fraud. The Atlanta-based Carter Center headed by former President Jimmy Carter said the boycott had marred the vote.
"The opposition's decision to boycott the runoff was based on their assertion that the overall election was significantly flawed. These claims remain unsubstantiated," the group said in a statement. "(The) boycott essentially denied the Liberian people a genuine choice within a competitive electoral process."
Most analysts and country experts believe that Tubman would have lost Monday's election if he had participated. His Congress for Democratic Change party got around 30 percent of the vote in the first round last month, compared to around 40 percent for Sirleaf. She later won the endorsement of the third-place finisher, who had just over 11 percent.
"If you look at the figures, you can see that Tubman (was) almost certainly going to lose. He is 12, 13 points down in the polls," said Stephen Ellis, the author of a history of the Liberian civil war and researcher at the African Studies Center Leiden in the Netherlands.
"It's an obvious calculation. He withholds legitimacy from the government," Ellis said. "If it was felt by a large part of population to not be legitimate, in a place like Liberia, with its history, it becomes quite worrying."
Those who did make a point of going out to vote appeared to be overwhelmingly in support of Sirleaf, who was first elected in 2005 and was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month.
The country's election commission announced they would release partial results by Thursday evening. The Liberia Media Center, an independent consortium which sent observers to all 15 counties, released a preliminary tally. It indicated that Sirleaf was leading with 88 percent to Tubman's 11 percent. Only 241,727 ballots had been counted so far, representing just 7 percent of the 1.7 million registered voters.
Some 1.2 million Liberians cast their vote in the first round, representing more than 70 percent voter turnout. The turnout is expected to be significantly lower due to the withdrawal of the opposition from the runoff, as well as fears of violence.
On the eve of the vote, Tubman's supporters clashed with police on the streets outside the opposition's headquarters, and at least two people were killed after security forces opened fire with live bullets. Sirleaf has vowed an investigation.