Liberians go to polls to choose new leader

Monrovia: Former international footballer George Weah and Vice-President Joseph Boakai joined voters in casting their ballots in Liberia on Tuesday as they went head-to-head in a delayed run-off vote for the presidency. Voters are choosing a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is stepping down after 12 years as Africa’s first elected female head of state, in the West African country’s first democratic transition since 1944.
The ballot was delayed for seven weeks due to legal challenges lodged by Boakai’s Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round of voting.
Weah starred in top-flight European football teams Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s before playing briefly for Chelsea and Manchester City in England later in his career.
He and Boakai voted in polling stations near their homes in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, the capital of this nation of 4.6 million people.
Both declared victory was theirs for the taking. “We’re going to win because the people believe in us and they know we represent the best,” said Boakai, a public servant of four decades standing, seen as the establishment candidate.
But Weah was resolute that his second run for the presidency would be successful. “The victory is certain, I am sure that I am going to win,” he told journalists after casting his ballot.
Weah alleges that electoral fraud cost him the presidency in 2005 and the vice-presidency in 2011. His CDC party contested those results, but has refrained so far this time.
After voting on Tuesday, Weah warned that “what happened in 2005 and 2011 cannot be repeated”.
Boakai also sounded a cautionary note, saying he would accept the result provided the National Elections Commission met “all of the standards”.
Boakai waged a bitter legal battle over problems with queue control and voter identification in the October 10 first round.
On Tuesday, polling stations displayed voter lists as a mark of transparency.
“This time everything is OK. It was very easy for me to find my voting place,” said Gabriel Peters as he cast his vote at Calvary Chapel Mission School in Monrovia, which he said had opened on time.
There were fears however that holding an election the day after Christmas could hit turnout.
Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) for the country’s 2.1 million voters, and were expected to close at 1800 GMT. — AFP