Early voting commenced in Liberia for the pivotal runoff election between President George Weah and former Vice President Joseph Boakai, both locked in a tight race after falling short of the 50% threshold required for an outright victory in the initial round.
The first round reflected a narrow margin, with former soccer star Weah securing 43.83% of the vote, narrowly edging out Boakai’s 43.44%. This slender divide has heightened anticipation for an intensely contested second round.
At various polling stations in Monrovia, queues of voters were observed by a Reuters reporter, signaling an enthusiastic turnout among citizens.
“Gratitude to all Liberians who came out early. Stay in line and cast your votes,” urged Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, head of the national elections commission, in a broadcast on state radio.
President Weah, seeking re-election, appealed to voters for an extended mandate to fulfill his pledges made during his initial term, focusing on eradicating corruption and uplifting livelihoods. The nation continues to grapple with the repercussions of past civil wars and the devastating 2013-16 Ebola epidemic.
Meanwhile, Boakai’s campaign revolves around rescuing the nation from what he perceives as mismanagement by Weah’s administration, marred by corruption allegations.
Endorsements from candidates eliminated in the first round have bolstered both Weah and Boakai’s campaigns, signaling the consolidation of political alliances.
A critical factor lies in the preferences of the 6% of voters whose ballots were invalidated in the initial round, shaping the outcome of this runoff.
While the electoral process has been relatively peaceful, sporadic clashes between rival factions occurred. Any reported irregularities in this round could potentially provoke unrest, highlighting the sensitivity of the situation.
Despite a 4.8% economic growth driven by gold production and a favorable harvest in 2022, over 80% of the population continues to grapple with varying degrees of food insecurity, as noted by the World Bank in July.