Liberia vote-count­ing con­tin­ues as runoff elec­tion likely

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

MONROVIA — Vote count­ing con­tin­ued across Liberia yes­ter­day fol­low­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tions that are likely to go to a runoff with 20 can­di­dates con­test­ing, lo­cal me­dia and ob­servers say.

Ex-soc­cer star Ge­orge Weah and Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph Boakai are lead­ing, ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial re­sults re­ported by the state-run Liberia Broad­cast­ing Sys­tem.

“There is a like­li­hood that there will be a runoff elec­tion,” the net­work re­ported based on fig­ures seen by its cor­re­spon­dents across the coun­try.

More than 2.1 mil­lion vot­ers had reg­is­tered to vote at nearly 5 400 polling sta­tions through­out Liberia, which was es­tab­lished by the United States in the 19th cen­tury for freed black slaves.

Vot­ers chose among 20 pres­i­den­tial con­tenders and nearly 1 000 can­di­dates from 26 po­lit­i­cal par­ties vy­ing for 73 seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. A pres­i­den­tial can­di­date must win more than 50% of the vote to avoid a sec­ond round.

Ellen John­son Sir­leaf, Africa’s first fe­male pres­i­dent, will step aside after two six-year terms in of­fice. She led the coun­try’s re­cov­ery from a 14-year civil war and guided this West African coun­try through the Ebola cri­sis that killed nearly 5 000 peo­ple.

Vot­ers com­mended her lead­er­ship but also said they are ready for change when they lined up for Tues­day’s his­toric vote.

“As a long­stand­ing friend, the United States ap­plauds the peo­ple of Liberia for ex­er­cis­ing their demo­cratic right to vote in the his­toric pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions,” said a state­ment from US State Depart­ment spokesper­son Heather Nauert.

“This is an im­por­tant step to­ward achiev­ing Liberia’s first peace­ful trans­fer of power from one demo­crat­i­cally-elected head of state to an­other in decades.”

In­ter­na­tional ob­servers say Tues­day’s vote went smoothly de­spite late starts in some coun­ties. Fi­nal re­sults should be known within two weeks. If there is a runoff elec­tion it will come two weeks after that an­nounce­ment.

The turnout was im­pres­sive, es­pe­cially among the younger gen­er­a­tions, said Christo­pher Fo­mun­yoh, of the US funded National Demo­cratic In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, which is mon­i­tor­ing the elec­tions.

He said Liberia’s youth demon­strated “a com­mit­ment to be in­volved in the elec­toral and gov­ern­men­tal process of their coun­try. All of these peo­ple are say­ing they want change and im­prove­ment, and that ex­plains why al­most all of the can­di­dates are pre­sent­ing them­selves as can­di­dates for change.”

Fo­mun­yoh, who also ob­served Liberia’s 2005 elec­tions, said Sir­leaf helped cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for an open race with such a high num­ber of can­di­dates. — AFP

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