Former international football star George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai held commanding leads in provisional presidential election results announced on Saturday, setting up a likely run-off next month between the two men.
Weah and Boakai lead the 20-candidate field to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in what would be Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.
Weah received 39.2 per cent of nearly 1.2 million ballots cast in nearly three-quarters of polling places, leading Boakai who had 29.6 per cent of the vote, the commission said.
Charles Brumskine, a lawyer, was a distant third with 9.7 per cent. The final certified results from last Tuesday’s poll must be announced by 25 October, although provisional results from the remaining constituencies are expected in the coming days.
The commission said that ballots would be re-cast in two polling places in Nimba County due to irregularities, although that measure only concerns a few thousand votes. Brumskine has said the vote was marred by fraud and that he would request a re-run of the vote. However, he has yet to produce evidence of cheating and international observers said they saw no major problems.
Weah became the first non-European to win the European player of the year award in 1995, the same year he picked up the African and World player of the year awards.
He finished runner-up to Johnson Sirleaf in a 2005 election that helped draw a line under years of civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. He has been a senator for the opposition CDC party since 2014.
Boakai, the former head of Liberia’s petroleum refinery company and agriculture minister, has served as Liberia’s vice president since 2006 and represents the ruling Unity Party.
Johnson Sirleaf’s 12 years in office have seen the consolidation of Liberia’s post-war peace and the quadrupling in size of the national economy. However, many Liberians complain about poor public services and widespread corruption and say they are eager for a new president.
Adira Kallo with agency reports