It is now obvious that Liberia’s presidential election will go to a runoff since incumbent President George Weah and former Vice President Joseph Boakai are still neck-and-neck and too close to declare a winner.
Data from the National Elections Commission as of October 16 show that Boakai overcame a 3,581-vote deficit to defeat Weah by just 800 votes with 92.82% of the votes counted.
With 748,463 votes, the former vice president is in the lead (43.70%), but Weah is not far behind with 747,578 votes, or 43.65%.
After trailing Weah for the previous three days, the President’s vote advantage shrank dramatically from its peak of 13,758 on October 14; this resulted in his decreased lead as 5,467 voting locations out of a total of 5,890 have been counted.
The nation is on edge as they await the result of the nail-biting race between the two, which generated one of the narrowest margins in post-war Liberian history. Since neither candidate is likely to receive the necessary 50.1% of the vote to win outright, the competitive trend of the results has increased the chance of a runoff.
With 2.4 million registered voters and slightly more than 1.8 million votes cast as of October 10 in Liberia, the two front-runners would need more than 400k votes to win the election in the first round, bringing their combined vote totals to just over 1.2 million.
However, Weah and Boakai have both practically exhausted the votes in their respective strongholds; Montserrado and Margibi counties, which still have 423 polling locations available, will be the determining factor.
Additionally, they haven’t been able to win even a 10,000-vote margin in Montserrado or Margibi counties on a single day since the results started to be announced on October 11. They have taken turns holding the top rank because of the results’ intense competition.
After Boakai had led for two days as well, Weah took the lead for three days in a row. With a margin of just 800 votes, the former vice president is now leading according to figures from October 16.
Analysts believe that the primary cause of Boakai and Weah’s subsequent seesaw battle has been their inability to substantially dominate Montserrado County, which has the biggest percentage of votes nationwide—roughly one million.
Boakai currently leads Montserrado County by 876 votes, a difference resulting from 1,959 polling stations out of 2008, or 97.56% of the total.
The former vice president has received 313,372 votes, or 46.36% of the total, while Weah is right behind with 312,496, or 46.23%. The scenario is somewhat the same in Margibi County, where Boakai leads with 6,794 votes out of 441 total voting sites that have been counted.
Boakai received 36,856 votes in Margibi, or 49.10% of the total vote, whereas Weah received 30,062 votes, or 40.05%, a little bit later.
Weah leads in Bong, Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Rivergee, Grand Kru, and Maryland Counties as of the electoral body’s Oct. 16 statistics, while Boakai has sway over Nimba, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu Counties.
The fact that there are additional candidates, such Edward W. Appleton of the relatively young Grassroots Development Movement, who has managed to garner about 37,065 votes (or 2.16% of the little over 1.8 million total) adds to the intricacy of the situation.
Appleton’s vote total exceeds that of other candidates, such as Dr. Clarence Moniba, Cllr. Taiwan Gongloe, and Alexander Cummings, who were all initially predicted to do much better in the elections.
Lusinee Kamara is next with 34, 317 votes, or 2.00% of the total vote. Gongloe is in fifth place with roughly 1.66% of the vote, and Cummings is in sixth place with roughly 1.64% of the vote.
Analysts note that these candidates have significantly reduced the number of votes that Weah and Boakai received in the first round of voting, even though their vote share may not be large. This has increased the likelihood of a runoff, similar to the one that occurred in 2017 when Weah, an opposition candidate at the time, won in the runoff.
The outcome of a closely contested campaign reflects the fundamental divisions within the country between two seasoned leaders who have different ideas about what the future holds for Liberia.
Along with the strong grassroots backing of each vice presidential candidate, tribal affiliations have also been a major factor in helping to narrow the race between the President and his archrival.
The intense competition has also been exacerbated by the endorsements of a few powerful political personalities who have a large amount of tribal appeal in the areas in which they operate.
Former international football player Weah, who has held office since January 2018, is a candidate for reelection on a platform that emphasises his accomplishments during his first term, which include economic reform and infrastructure development.
He has made it clear that he will keep up these programmes and advance Liberia’s economic growth.
However, Boakai, a former vice president of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is positioning himself as a seasoned statesman who can approach the country’s problems in a new manner. His campaign has prioritised social welfare, healthcare, and education.