ANI Photo | Tight election expected as polls close in Liberia presidential run-off

In Liberia, the polls have closed for the Presidential run-off, in which voters chose whether to hand George Weah a second term in office or elect political veteran Joseph Boakai.
The first round on October 10, saw former football star, Weah, 57, take 43.83 per cent of the votes while Boakai, 78, won 43.44 per cent. Weah who came to power in 2018, won just 7,000 more votes than career politician Boakai in the October poll, failing to reach the 50 per cent needed to secure an outright victory, CNN reported.
This was Liberia’s fourth post-war presidential election, and the first one without the presence of a United Nations mission that previously had provided support to the National Elections Commission.
Two civil wars ravaged Liberia between 1989 and 2003, the Business and Human Rights Resource Center said, ‘Civil war ensued among various tribal groups and the country suffered estimated deaths of up to 300,000 people before the end of fighting in 2003.”
The 2013-16 Ebola epidemic also hindered development in the state, according to CNN.
Many voters were underwhelmed by Weah’s first term, which had been scuppered by graft scandals and persistent poverty in Africa’s oldest independent republic.
Weah has asked voters for more time to make good on his first-term promises to root out corruption and improve livelihood.
Future Barbour, a mother of four, selling rice outside a polling station in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia said, “I am voting because I need peace, more development.”
“My children are not going to school because I have no job,” Barbour said.
Boakai lost to Weah in the 2017 election and has campaigned on the need to rescue the nation from what he calls mismanagement by Weah’s administration.
The turnout for the runoff appeared fewer than the record 79 per cent, of the 2.4 million registered voters, during the October elections, CNN reports.
Boakai said on Tuesday that it was normal for the runoff to have a lower turnout, but said that Weah’s party was “panicking” and trying to stop ballots from being cast, without providing details.
“We are very vigilant. We have people checking on all those things,” Boakai told reporters.
The electoral period saw a number of clashes between rival factions, although generally peaceful, two people were killed.
Any alleged irregularities in the second round of voting could potentially create political unrest, however, there were no reports of clashes on Tuesday morning.
“I am happy that the place is calm, everybody is voting, there is no tension. This is democracy,” Weah said after casting his vote. “I am confident of winning.”
Weah has a cult-like support in many areas of Liberia, reports CNN. He rose from a slum in Monrovia and played at the highest levels of football playing for prestigious clubs including, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Despite his own rise, he has been unable to ease widespread poverty or stamp out corruption during his first term, reports CNN.
The economy grew 4.8 per cent in 2022, driven by gold production and a relatively good harvest, but more than 80 per cent of the population still faces moderate or severe food insecurity, the World Bank said in July.
“I am voting for my children’s future… to have a free country where there will be no armed robbery, where children can move freely,” said Samuel Carr, who voted in Monrovia.
“I want to see a better Liberia.” (ANI)

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