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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Liberians queue for historic vote
Liberian woman posts her ballot paper
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.

Waiting

Many have used umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun and complained of waiting for more than five or six hours to vote.

Liberians voting in their country's historic poll share their views

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.

Different people are feeling different things; some are celebrating, others worried, afraid or confused
Massa Soni, Liberian villager

In the second most populous area, Nimba County, turnout is also high, with many voters opting to return once queues were shorter.

In the Red Light Community in Paynesville on the outskirts of Monrovia it took three hours to organise the voters into lines.

Porters hired

The elections commission chairman announced on national radio that polls would be extended until midnight where queues remained to allow all Liberians to vote.

LIBERIA ELECTIONS
22 presidential candidates
94 seats in two-tier parliament
1.3m registered to vote

Voters hope the elections will mark a new page in the country's brutal history.

But speaking to the BBC News website from the village of Sinje on the eve of the poll, Chief Momo Freeman said he remained concerned.

"I will not be happy until I know the results of the vote.

"All the 22 candidates want to win and they have supporters.

"The losers might cause trouble."

The election logistics pose a challenge to Liberia, a country with only 200km (120 miles) of paved road.

Guide to Liberia and its recent turbulent history

Election officials have hired porters to deliver ballot boxes to the more than 3,000 polling places, and then return them.

Many experienced Liberian politicians are among the 20 other candidates standing.

A second round will take place between the top two presidential candidates, if no-one secures 50% of the vote.

Much of the credit for the peaceful campaigning ahead of Tuesday's poll goes to the UN, which has a big peacekeeping force in Liberia.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See presidential hopefuls campaigning in Liberia



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