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HomenewsLiberia votes as President George Weah eyes second term

Liberia votes as President George Weah eyes second term

Liberians are voting on whether to return football icon George Weah to the presidency, with peace and the economy among voters’ top concerns.

Hundreds of people had gathered at polling stations in the capital, Monrovia, early on Tuesday morning ahead of the start of voting at 08:00 GMT.

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The main political parties have pledged that the presidential and legislative elections in the West African country will pass off peacefully.

However, the deaths of three people last month during clashes between rival party supporters has raised concerns about a return to bloodshed.

Scuffles also broke out on Sunday as Weah, who is seeking a second six-year term as president, held his final campaign rally, leaving several injured.

The election is the first to be held since the United Nations ended its peacekeeping mission in Liberia in 2018.

UN peacekeepers were deployed to the country after more than 250,000 people died in two civil wars between 1989 and 2003.

Weah, 57, entered politics after a career as an international footballer that saw him become the only African to win the game’s most prestigious individual award and do stints at top clubs including Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Chelsea.

Following his election in 2017, Weah said he would create jobs and invest in education, but critics say he has failed to keep his pledges.

Weah has argued that he needs more time to fix the nation’s decrepit economy and infrastructure.

The former athlete is the favourite among 20 candidates but could face a second-round run-off if he does not secure an absolute majority in the first round of voting.

The European Union, the African Union, the West African bloc ECOWAS and the United States have deployed observers to oversee the vote.

Some 2.4 million Liberians are eligible to vote in the elections, with polling stations set to close at 18:00 GMT.

The National Elections Commission will begin publishing results from Wednesday, with final results due within 15 days.

Weah grew up in the slums of Monrovia and is popular with young people in Liberia, where more than 60 percent of the population is younger than 25.

As president, Weah has defied calls to set up a war crimes tribunal and faced criticism for not doing enough to tackle corruption.

Last year, he fired his chief of staff and two other senior officials after the trio were sanctioned by the US for alleged corruption.

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai, Weah’s main rival, has said any vote cheating or manipulation in the election will lead to “the end of this country”.

Boakai, 78, has pledged to restore the country’s image, develop infrastructure and improve life for the poorest.

More than a fifth of Liberia’s population lives on less than $2.15 a day, according to the World Bank, and prices of staple foods have soared.

Boakai, who served as vice president between 2006 and 2018, has cast himself as an honest alternative to Weah, whom he accuses of presiding over a corrupt system.

The watchdog Transparency International ranked Liberia 142nd of 180 countries in its 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Source: News Agencies

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