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Football Star, Politician are Early Front-runners in Liberia’s Election

  • Bram Posthumus

People wait to vote during the presidential election at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 10, 2017.

Football icon George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai are the early front-runners in Liberia’s presidential election results, with about a quarter of the ballots declared as of Friday.

Authorities, however, are urging people to wait for the official results before making conclusions based on what they read on the internet.

"As we have repeatedly said, only this commission can declare a winner of any public election," National Elections Commission chairman Jerome Korkoya said, addressing reporters. "So far, this commission has not, let me repeat, has not declared any winner … so the reports going around that somebody or some people have already been elected … we're not aware of that."

The comments came after a declaration of a winner was posted on the social media site Twitter.

In the capital, people voiced concern about statements from Weah's Coalition for Democratic Change party, suggesting the CDC was the winner.

"My own disappointment is that there's statements coming from the leaders of the CDC … that CDC has won the election at first ballot," said local youth organizer Micky Oldfield. "That worries me a lot because … if NEC announces something different, the supporters of CDC could go on the rampage, and that's my fear."

George Weah, former soccer player and presidential candidate of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), votes at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia.
George Weah, former soccer player and presidential candidate of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), votes at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia.

Esther Ellen Coleman-Pour, a teacher at a medical school in central Monrovia, says she does not believe people are becoming impatient awaiting the outcome.

"For me, I'm only waiting for the result, the final result," she said. "That's the one I'm going to take. Everyone should just wait and be patient and wait for the time. … Anyone who wins is my president. I just want peace!"

Weah leads with 39 percent of the vote, and Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party has 31 percent. Neither candidate is expected to break through the 50 percent margin needed to be declared the outright winner, meaning a second round in November is a near certainty, as in 2005 and 2011.

Voters cast their ballots Tuesday, marking the West African nation’s first smooth transition of power from one democratically elected leadership to another in more than 70 years.

Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Liberia's vice president and presidential candidate of Unity Party (UP), votes at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia.
Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Liberia's vice president and presidential candidate of Unity Party (UP), votes at a polling station in Monrovia, Liberia.

The Liberty Party, however, wants election authorities to stop counting the votes, citing voting irregularities and fraud.

Liberians went to the polls to choose the successor to Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female elected head of state, who is stepping down after serving two six-year terms, as mandated by Liberia’s constitution.

Only one woman is vying for the presidency, while another woman, Jewel Howard Taylor, is the running mate of Weah. Taylor is the ex-wife of former president and warlord Charles Taylor, who is serving a 50-year prison sentence for war crimes in connection with the conflict in neighboring Sierra Leone two decades ago.

Sirleaf has led Liberia through a period of peace in the aftermath of a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. But the country remains plagued by corruption and is still trying to recover from the Ebola crisis that killed 5,000 people in 2014 and 2015.

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