Last Updated: 2017-10-13
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MONROVIA, Oct 13 (NNN-AGENCIES) -- The incumbent vice president and a former professional soccer player are leading in the first round of Liberia’s presidential election, partial results show, and may face each other in a runoff.

With votes from around 25 percent of polling stations counted, George Weah, once named African Player of the Century, and Vice President Joseph Boakai emerged as the top vote-getters among the 20 candidates in Tuesday’s election. Weah, with roughly 136,000 votes, was leading Boakai, with 105,000 votes.

But it was unclear whether Weah would be able to ultimately capture 50 percent plus one vote, the threshold to avoid a second round of balloting.

If no one reaches that level, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff election next month. They are seeking to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who stepped down after two terms as Africa’s first democratically elected female president.

The announcement of the partial results, made at Liberia’s National Elections Commission Thursday evening, was filled with drama. Many of Weah’s supporters had been proclaiming him the outright winner, and he appeared to be doing better than most political watchers had expected.

In populous Montserrado County, home to Monrovia, the capital, Weah had captured 50.4 percent of the vote with 15 percent of polls reporting. But Monrovia has been Weah’s stronghold, and Boakai, for his part, appeared to be pulling support from some unexpected places elsewhere in the country.

Turnout in the election appears to have been high, but there were several reports of irregularities. In one case, hundreds of people with registration cards spent the day demanding to vote in Bong County after poll workers there said their names were not on voter rolls.

The episode prompted officials from Weah’s party and the party of Alexander Cummings, a former Coca-Cola executive, to lodge complaints with the elections commission. Cummings was running in third place alongside the lawyer Charles Brumskine.

Elections officials said they had worked to solve that issue, and that most voters were eventually able to cast ballots. Still, many people expressed frustration.

The final results of the first round will be announced on Oct. 25.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed Tuesday's peaceful holding of the presidential and House of Representatives elections in Liberia and reiterated the continued support of the UN to the consolidation of peace and democracy in the West African country.

“The Secretary-General commends the efforts of the National Elections Commission and security institutions for this important milestone in the history of Liberia,” said a statement issued by his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

Also in the statement, the UN chief congratulated the people of Liberia who turned out enthusiastically in high numbers to vote, and commended the Liberian women's groups for their active and important role in the electoral process.

UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia, deployed in 2003 after a civil war ended, handed back responsibility for security to the country's army and police in 2016, as part of its exit strategy. -- NNN-AGENCIES