Former international football star George Weah has taken the lead in the early election results announced by Liberia’s electoral commission on Thursday evening.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman Jerome Korkoya announced the results of 1,232 polling places out of the 5,390 in the 15 counties.
Weah led in 11 counties including Grand Kru, Sinoe, River Gee and Grand Gedeh County where he had 76.1% of the votes.
He was trailed by Vice President Joseph Boakai who led only in the Lofa County by 78.1% while Charles Walker Brumskine also led in Grand Bassa (48.4%) and Rivercess (37.3%).
Former warlord Prince Johnson led in his Nimba County where he is the Senator by 52.6%.
The NEC says it will release the results from the remaining 4,158 polling places in the coming days. It called on the media not to release unverified results and cautioned the parties and candidates with complaints to express them through the legal channels with supporting evidence.
Twenty presidential candidates are vying to replace Africa’s first female democratically-elected president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. They include Weah, Vice President Boakai, Johnson and the only woman in the race, former model Macdella Cooper.
There were 986 aspirants for the 73 seats in the House of Representatives. Their results will be declared later, Korkoya said on Thursday.
The first African player to win both FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or, the 50-year-old Weah unsuccessfully ran as a presidential candidate in 2005, when he was defeated by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He also ran as a vice-presidential candidate in 2011 but his running mate lost to Sirleaf.
Weah, idolised in Liberia as “Mister George”, has been a senator for his party, Coalition for Democratic Change, since the end of 2014.
The Carter Centre, which observed the elections, commended Liberians “for the calm and peaceful atmosphere” of the vote. It noted difficulties with long lines and management of voter lists but said it could not give a final assessment until vote counting is complete.
“No matter the outcome of this election, it will result in a transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another for the first time in the lives of many Liberians,” it said in a statement.