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Opposition piqued over president’s remarks

MONROVIA — Liberia’s opposition is outraged by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s recent admission that some of her supporters hid their sons’ cards to prevent them from voting against her in 2005.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf said some Liberian women cheated to help her in the 2005 election race against retired international soccer star George Weah, according to FrontPage Africa, a leading Liberian daily and Internet news provider.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf made the disclosure last week, when she addressed a women’s fundraiser while in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly. The fundraiser to support Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s Market Women Project was held at a public school in Harlem.

The president said that some women market-sellers in Monrovia prevented their sons from voting in the 2005 elections because they were afraid the young men would vote for Mr. Weah.

“They [the women] even did some unorthodox things, as they confessed to me later on and I can say it now since I am not running again,” she was quoted as saying.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf, who turns 74 on Oct. 29, is serving her second and final term.

In the 2005 election — the first after the end of Liberia’s 14-year civil war — Mr. Weah came in first in the first round but was defeated in the second round by Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf, who got 56 percent of the vote while Mr. Weah received 46 percent, according to the electoral commission.

Mr. Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change party protested and charged cheating and “ballot stuffing” in favor of Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s new admission has rekindled the opposition’s anger.

From wire dispatches and staff reports