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Calls for free and fair elections as Liberians vote in presidential run-off

A blind voter is assisted to the polling booth in the second round of presidential elections in Monrovia, Liberia, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.   -  
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Rami Malek/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


Liberian voters have until 6 PM GMT Tuesday (Nov. 14) to cast a ballot in the second round of presidential elections.

On the first round, incumbent president George Weah had a lead of about 7,000 votes over his rival Joseph Boakai.

Voters in Monrovia said Tuesday they wanted a "free and fair" election.

"This election is going to decide the future of this country, that’s why it’s so much important," school administrator Bestman said.

"What I expect of this election is that this election should be free, fair and transparent and at the end of it, whoever wins becomes the president of this country for the next 6 years. "

The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and rival Unity Party focused on apealing to supporters of the 18 candidates who did not it to the second round.

Edward Appleton, who came third, has backed Boakai, as have two of the other top six candidates.

More than 2.4 million people are registered to vote.

The incumbent is popular among young people but must defend a controversial record in office, while Boakai who has an experience drawn from a multitude of positions in the public and private sectors is deemed tool old by some voters.


Turnout could also be an important factor, said Lawrence Yealue, who runs the civil society group Accountability Lab Liberia.

He expects a lower turnout than the record 78.86 percent on October 10, when the presidential vote was coupled with parliamentary elections.

Clashes during the campaign left several dead and raised fears of post-election violence.

Voter Madison who is a teacher shares his hopes: "Everyone or every citizen of Liberia needs to exercise their political decision. And most of all, I want to say to the Liberian people that this election should be free and fair. We don’t want no fighting and we don’t want to run up and down. So to all citizens, I would like to say let us exercise our political decision."

This year's election is the first since the United Nations in 2018 ended its peacekeeping mission in Liberia, created after more than 250,000 people died in two civil wars between 1989 and 2003.

Weah -- who grew up in the Monrovia slums to become the only African to win football's most prestigious individual award, the Ballon d'Or -- is widely seen as approachable and peaceful.

He was president when the Covid-19 pandemic hit at a time when Liberia was still recovering economically from back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic.

His detractors say he is disconnected from the realities of skyrocketing prices and shortages.

More than a fifth of Liberians live on less than $2.15 a day, according to the World Bank.

Boakai blames Weah for corruption, which is endemic in Liberia and has worsened on the incumbent's watch, according to Transparency International.

The electoral commission has 15 days to publish the results but could do so sooner, one of its officials, Samuel Cole, said.

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