Liberia is in the midst of a crucial presidential run-off election as citizens cast their votes following a closely contested first round, where the two leading candidates were separated by just over 7,000 votes.
Incumbent and former football star George Weah faces off against former Vice-President Joseph Boakai in a high-stakes election that has captured the nation’s attention. Weah narrowly secured victory in the initial round but fell short of the required 50% threshold, leading to the run-off.
Allegations of fraud and acts of violence marred the first round, which took place a month ago. The election commission reported the arrest of nine temporary staff members over alleged ballot-tampering, while the United Nations documented clashes between supporters of rival opposition parties.
The anticipated high voter turnout shows that Liberians are approaching this election with a strong sense of civic duty.
Weah, 57, secured 43.8% of the vote in the first round, while Boakai, 78, closely followed with 43.4%. Both candidates have been diligently working to form political alliances with the 18 other contenders who participated in the initial round, none of whom received more than 3% of the vote.
Boakai, who served as the vice president to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, has garnered the endorsement of three of the four best-performing candidates, according to Reuters. His campaign has emphasized investments in agriculture and infrastructure. In contrast, Weah has focused on improving education and addressing unemployment.
This marks the second time Weah and Boakai have faced each other in a presidential run-off vote. In 2017, Weah emerged victorious with 61% of the vote in the second round. Analysts attribute his success to international stardom, particularly among the youth, and promises to combat corruption.
Polls opened at 08:00 local time (08:00 GMT) and are set to close at 18:00 local time (18:00 GMT), initiating the commencement of vote counting. The elected president will be sworn into office in January next year, with the outcome of this election carrying significant implications for the future of Liberia, a nation that has endured more than 20 years of civil wars resulting in the loss of 250,000 lives.