Liberia Senate elections held despite Ebola threat | News | DW | 20.12.2014
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Liberia Senate elections held despite Ebola threat

Voters who turned out for senate elections in Liberia were met with health workers at the door of polling stations to check for Ebola. The elections had been delayed twice due to the outbreak.

The vote for 15 of the 30 seats in the upper house of parliament had been postponed twice since October because of the Ebola outbreak. More than 3,340 people have now died from Ebola in Liberia, making it the country with the highest number of fatalities in the current outbreak, followed by Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah had warned that anyone running a temperature higher than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) could be removed from the line, asked to cast their ballots in a separate area, and then sent for screening. A sudden fever is one of the signs of the highly contagious Ebola infection.

A spokesman for the national election commission said that all voters had to wash their hands before entering polling stations and maintain at least a meter's distance from each other.

"What bothers me is the low turnout, but I am not surprised," said Jerome Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission. "That's what you find in most of the world now in a political process."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was on a two-day visit to the region to review the international effort to tackle the Ebola outbreak. He began his tour in Liberia.

"This election will give Liberia and its people an opportunity to show the world how far it has come," Ban said.

Polling challenge

The 1.9 million registered voters chose between 139 candidates. Polling stations opened in the early morning and began closing early evening. Some stations opened late in the seaside capital Monrovia and in several locations in the interior of the country. There were also reports that some of the 4,700 thermometers and 10,000 bottles of sanitizer intended for the health workers to use at the polling stations did not arrive in time.

Among the candidates for the senate were former footballer George Weah, who stood against the son of the current president, Robert Sirleaf, in Monrovia's Montserrado County. The 48-year-old Weah, a former African footballer of the year, had previously stood against current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the 2005 presidential election.

"I am more than confident that I will win" Weah said. "My victory was stolen from me in previous presidential elections. This time I will not allow it."

Provisional results were expected on Sunday.

jm/cd (AFP, AP)

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