MONROVIA - It is voting day in Liberia. More than two million registered voters have been invited to polling places nationwide to elect their new president and 73 members of the House of Representatives.
They left home as early as 5 a.m. to be on time.
"Yeah, I am on my way to vote,” said Thomas Davis. “I am waiting for the crowd to reduce and then I will go and cast my ballot."
IN PICTURES: LIberians vote for new presidentView full gallery
As of mid-day, the process was going smoothly in the capital.
"The atmosphere is cool. People are behaving themselves,” voter Mabel Johnson said. “It is not like other elections. Everything is in place.”
Credit is being given to the electoral commission and to the local observer initiatives nationwide.
Election co-chair is confident
One of them is the Women's Situation Room. Stephanie Kpoto, the group's youth organizer explains its purpose.
“It is an initiative,” Kpoto said, “... by the women of Liberia, so that during elections the women and the youth of the country can come together, to mitigate violence before, during and after elections.”
National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia co-chair Stephanie Toe assured VOA all is going well, not only in Monrovia, but elsewhere. She explains what happens when the polls close.
“The ballot boxes are opened and counted ... and then everything is put back in the ballot box,” Toe said. “A new seal is put on. And then these boxes are taken to the county tally centers, where the tallying is done.”
Votes counted electronically, physicaly
The process is under the watchful eye of party political representatives. Levels of distrust around elections have been notoriously high, and the NEC wants to keep allegations of fraud at a minimum.
All county tallies are relayed to Monrovia, first electronically, then physically. A long process, given the country's notoriously bad road network.
Toe says the Oct. 25 deadline for announcing the final results will be kept.
“I’m confident it will,” Toe said. “We usually do not take the full time."
On election day, Monrovia’s Randall Street feels like a Sunday.
Shops and stores are closed, a few boys play football and guards hang around in front of closed doors as people queue patiently as the sun beats down.
Clara Banto has even taken her little daughter along.
“Yeah, she came to vote too ... I explained it to her,” said Banto. “She has got almost 17 years before she can cast her vote, so she comes to see.”
President won Nobel Peace Prize
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf steps down this year at the end of her second term. She won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her role shepherding the country out of the wreckage of a 14-year civil war.
Sirleaf called Tuesday's vote a historic day “For the consolidation of Liberia's young democracy.”
Twenty candidates are vying to succeed her. A run-off will be held in November if no candidate wins a majority on Tuesday.