Liberians Cast Votes in Tightly Contested Presidential Run-Off Election

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Liberians are heading to the polls today in a closely watched presidential run-off election, following a first round in which the two leading candidates were separated by just over 7,000 votes. Incumbent President George Weah and former Vice-President Joseph Boakai are vying for the nation’s top office, with both candidates seeking to secure a decisive mandate after a narrow outcome in the initial round.

President Weah, a one-time football star, narrowly won the first round but failed to secure more than 50% of the vote, leading to the run-off. The election has been marked by allegations of fraud and violence, including the arrest of nine election commission temporary staff over alleged ballot-tampering.

The United Nations reported clashes between supporters of rival opposition parties, underscoring the high stakes in this election. This is Liberia’s fourth presidential election since the end of the second civil war over 20 years ago, which resulted in the deaths of more than 50,000 people.

The run-off is crucial for both candidates, as Liberia grapples with economic recovery from past conflicts and the impact of the Ebola epidemic. Images of long queues at polling stations in and around the capital, Monrovia, suggest a high turnout, with voters expressing eagerness to participate in shaping the nation’s future.

Incumbent President Weah, 57, and former Vice-President Boakai, 78, have been actively building political alliances with the 18 other candidates who ran in the first round. Boakai, who served as the vice-president to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, has secured the endorsement of three of the four best-performing candidates from the initial round.

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Boakai’s campaign has focused on investing in agriculture and infrastructure, emphasizing the need to rescue the nation from what he calls “mismanagement” by President Weah’s administration. Weah, in turn, has highlighted plans to improve education, deal with unemployment, and root out corruption.

This election follows the World Bank’s report of Liberia’s economic expansion by 4.8% in 2022, attributing the growth to mining and a relatively good agricultural harvest.

Polls opened at 08:00 local time and are set to close at 18:00 local time, with vote counting to follow immediately. The victor of this closely contested race will be sworn into office in January next year. As Liberia awaits the election results, the outcome will significantly shape the trajectory of the nation’s post-conflict recovery and future development.

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