Liberia heads for run-off election in boost for African democracy



Former A.C. Milan soccer starter George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai are heading for a second-round runoff vote in Liberia’s presidential election as they have the most votes with 96 percent of polling stations tallied, Bloomberg reports:

Weah had 39 percent of the vote and Boakai got 29.1 percent, with about 1.5 million ballots counted, Jerome Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission, told reporters on Sunday in the capital, Monrovia. The turnout was close to 75 percent. The run-off vote will be scheduled in November as none of the 20 candidates will garner a 50 percent majority.

Liberians are choosing a leader to replace President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who steps down after 12 years in office. The election could see Liberia transfer power from one elected leader to another for the first time in more than half a century.

Samantha Smoot, mission director for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) said many precincts with multiple polling places lacked clear signs to direct voters to the correct queue. “This led to confusion about which line to join. Where there were precinct queue controllers, some were not effective in directing voters to the correct queue,” Ms Smoot said.

Liberians began lining up to vote at 4 a.m. Tuesday, and things appeared to have proceeded without incident throughout most of the country, The New York Times adds.

Credit: NDI

“Almost all Liberians that turned out to vote were able to cast their ballots,” said Christopher Fomunyoh, senior associate for Africa at NDI [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy]. He said that in a few precincts with multiple polling sites, some voters stood in the wrong line for hours. “We also witnessed a few cases of persons with voter cards not finding their names on the voters’ list,” he said.

Some 133 Long Term Observers from the Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) will continue to monitor the post-election environment and to report on the tallying process. The network recruited and trained a further 1000 short term observers who have been stationed in polling places in all electoral districts throughout election day, reporting on the voting and counting processes. LEON is a platform of four civil society organizations – the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD).

Polling officials worked diligently all day and, in most locations observed by NDI delegation, adhered to procedures. Liberian political parties recruited, trained and deployed tens of thousands of poll watchers, and NDI observers saw multiple party agents in nearly all polling places observed, Front Page Africa adds:

Civil society organizations mobilized more than 5,000 citizen observers who were deployed in every electoral district in the country. The presence of party agents and citizen observers contributed significantly to peacefully safeguarding the vote. The campaign leading up to the polls was open and mostly free of violence, and parties and candidates expressed a commitment to a peaceful process.

Critics accuse Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of having too vague a political platform, and have challenged his long absences from the senate, AFP adds. Weah has also fended off barbs over his vice-presidential pick, Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of jailed former president and warlord Charles Taylor.

Corruption is the most vulnerable aspect of Liberia’s democracy, as in many other African democracies, said Dave Peterson, the National Endowment for Democracy’s Senior Director for Africa.

“Nepotism, ethnic favoritism, shady contracts, vote-buying, land deals, and other forms of both grand and petty corruption can only undermine popular support for democracy,” he told the committee. Despite many candidates joining President Sirleaf in expressing willingness to combat corruption, Liberians have witnessed little progress,” he told a recent hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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