Liberia is holding a presidential run-off pitting former football legend George Weah against Vice President Joseph Boakai. The polls pave the way for the first peaceful transfer of presidential power since 1944.
Liberians went to the polls on Tuesday to pick a successor to Nobel Peace laureate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, Africa’s first female head of state, who is retiring after two six-year terms.
The run-off vote, originally scheduled for November 7, was delayed for seven weeks after Vice President Joseph Boakai filed a complaint of fraud and incompetence against the electoral commission following his first-round loss to former international footballer George Weah. The complaint was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Boakai, the leader of the ruling Unity Party, received just 28.8 percent of the October 10 vote compared with 38.8 percent for Weah, who represents the Coalition for Democratic Change. The result triggered a run-off between the two because neither made it past the 50 percent needed to win outright.
The winner will take over a country whose economy has been weakened by sinking commodity prices for rubber and iron ore and whose currency is on a downward spiral. Liberia has also struggled with the aftermath of the Ebola crisis from 2014 to 2016, with more than 4,000 people nationwide dying of the disease.
Tuesday’s poll holds out the hope for the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in the country in more than seven decades. The country was wracked by back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and remains one of the world’s poorest nations.
Some 2.2 million people are eligible to vote in the elections at more than 5,300 polling stations.
Boakai, on the other hand, is seen as a candidate who can ensure continuity and has been commended for his four decades of public service.