Former football star George Weah, 51, and Vice-President Joseph Boakai, 73, are headed for a run-off in Liberia’s presidential election.
Nearly all the results from the poll have been counted, the election commission said. Weah, the first African to win the Ballon D’Or football award, is leading with 39%, while Boakai is in second place with 29%. A second round between the pair has been set for 7 November.
They lead the field of 20 candidates who competed to succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female elected president and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. A candidate needed more than 50% of the votes for victory in the first round. Fewer than 5% of polling stations have yet to declare results, and lawyer Charles Brumskine is in third place with 9.8%. Both Weah and Boakai had predicted they would win the first round of voting. Boakai has been vice-president under Sirleaf since 2005. He has distanced himself from her record, saying “a lot more needs to be achieved.”
Weah has the political backing of jailed warlord and former president Charles Taylor. Weah’s former manager on the football field, Arsene Wenger, was earlier this week apparently duped by false reports that he had already been elected president. He told reporters: “It’s not often you have a former player who becomes president of a country. So well done, Georgie.”
Liberia has not had a smooth transfer of power in 73 years. Sirleaf took office in 2006, after her predecessor, Charles Taylor, was forced out of office by rebels in 2003, ending a long civil war.
Taylor is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Weah, 51, has chosen Taylor’s ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate.