Vote counting is underway in Liberia as President George Weah seeks a second term in office, marking a pivotal moment in the nation’s political landscape.
President Weah’s first term has been blighted by allegations of corruption and persistent economic hardship in Africa’s oldest independent republic. This election has garnered significant attention, and around 2.4 million eligible voters have a crucial role to play in shaping Liberia’s future.
Liberia, a country still grappling with the aftermath of two devastating civil wars that claimed over 250,000 lives between 1989 and 2003 and a deadly Ebola epidemic from 2013 to 2016, is at a crossroads.
The challenges stemming from its tumultuous history have left a lasting impact on its socio-economic fabric.
“I am here to elect a good leader who will lead our country. A leader that will make school fees affordable for children to attend,” said Nanny Davies, a fish seller and a mother of six who spoke to Reuters. She stood in a long queue alongside hundreds of fellow citizens at the Baptist Field polling center in Monrovia, the capital.
Election officials reported a high turnout, reflecting the enthusiasm and anticipation surrounding this election.
President Weah, a beloved soccer star who rose from the slums of Monrovia to play for some of the world’s biggest clubs, has gathered immense popularity.
However, he faces the formidable challenge of addressing the country’s enduring problems, which have weighed heavily on the population.
Reuters said that the counting of votes began under challenging conditions, with some election officials tallying votes in notebooks by lamplight. The National Elections Commission (NEC) is set to release provisional results on Wednesday.
To avoid a runoff, the winning candidate must secure over 50 percent of the votes cast. Fortunately, no major incidents were reported during the election process, and the voting was generally calm and orderly. A team of observers from the Economic Community of West African States noted the peaceful nature of the election.
Despite the overall success of the election, there were logistical problems in some regions. Delayed election materials due to flooding in Sinoe and Rivercess counties led to some voters waiting for hours.
In a particularly challenging situation, some ballots had to be transported by canoes, a method that faced difficulties when some canoes capsized. As a result, voting will be extended in those areas, as announced by the NEC.
Nonetheless, many Liberians see the peaceful vote as a step in the right direction. Richmond Anderson, a Monrovia resident who voted, expressed relief, stating, “I want to see development here. If we have good leaders, we will not be suffering.”
In the wake of these developments, analysts believe that a runoff is likely, where President Weah, 57, who was first elected in 2017 in Liberia’s first democratic change of government in seven decades, aims to secure a second term.
He asserts that more time is needed to fulfill his promise of rebuilding Liberia’s economy, institutions, and infrastructure, including the country’s deteriorated road network.
“I have asked the Liberian people for a second-term mandate, and that’s why we have come here,” President Weah said after casting his ballot at the Kendeja Elementary School polling station in southern Monrovia.
Dressed in a crisp white djellaba robe and a matching white baseball cap, he expressed his satisfaction in exercising his constitutional right. (Most of the insights were provided by Reuters)