July 13, 2024

Counting has begun in Liberia’s presidential run-off election after neither of the main candidates won October’s first round outright.

Just 7,000 votes separated the current president, retired football star George Weah, and former Vice-President Joseph Boakai.

While Mr Weah won the first round he failed to get more than 50% of the vote, triggering a run-off.

Counting will conclude on Wednesday, the National Elections Commission said.

Nine election commission staff arrested over alleged ballot-tampering after October’s vote.

The UN also reported clashes between supporters of rival opposition parties.

This is the fourth presidential election since Liberia’s second civil war which ended more than 20 years ago after more than 50,000 people died.

The BBC’s Moses Garzeawu in the capital, Monrovia, said Liberians had been “hungry to vote” and long queues were reported at polling stations.

The head of the national elections commission, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, said: “We want to thank all Liberians who left their bed this morning. Stay in the line and vote.”

Mr Weah, 57, got 43.8% of the vote in the first round, and Mr Boakai, 78, got 43.4%. Eighteen other candidates ran in the first round.

George Weah (L) and Joseph Boakai (R)George Weah (L) and Joseph Boakai (R)

Neither President George Weah (L) nor Joseph Boakai (R) got an outright majority in the first round

Mr Boakai has focused on investing in agriculture and infrastructure in his campaigning.

He has also highlighted the need to rescue the nation from what he calls “mismanagement” by Mr Weah’s administration.

The president has been talking about improving education and dealing with unemployment.

He has asked voters for more time to see the results of his first-term promises, to root out corruption and improve livelihoods.

Liberia is still recovering from the impact of two civil wars between 1989 and 2003, and the Ebola epidemic that killed thousands of people between 2013 and 2016.

According to the World Bank, the West African nation’s economy expanded by 4.8% in 2022, because of “mining and a relatively good agricultural harvest”.

This is not the first time the two men have faced each other. In 2017, Mr Weah beat Mr Boakai, gaining 61% of the vote in the second round.

Voting closed at 18:00 GMT local time and results are expected to be announced on Wednesday.

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