- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

THE CANDIDATES:

In a heavily male field of 22, Harvard-educated Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stands out as a woman and as one of Liberia’s most experienced economists and administrators. She has worked for the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program and has held several Liberian Cabinet posts.

Another high-profile candidate is George Weah, a soccer legend and star of European teams, who grew up in a slum, claims little formal education and bills himself as the populist candidate. Also running is Sekou Conneh, leader of a rebel group whose deadly mid-2003 siege of Monrovia helped drive elected President Charles Taylor into exile.

THE ELECTION:

Liberians hope the Oct. 11 election will seal the peace that followed Mr. Taylor’s ouster and set the stage for development after 14 years of civil war. The new president will serve a six-year term and lead a government replacing a two-year-old caretaker administration widely accused of corruption and mismanagement. A candidate must top 50 percent of the vote or face a runoff against the runner-up.

THE HISTORY:

Liberia was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves who became the political and social elite and disenfranchised the local people. They prospered until President William R. Tolbert Jr. was overthrown in 1980 in the republic’s first coup, carried out by indigenous Liberians. Liberia has since endured chronic civil war and coups.

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