Liberian President Weah faces tight runoff vote for a second term against challenger Boakai

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberian President George Weah, faces a tight runoff election Tuesday as he seeks to defeat a repeat challenger and earn a second term in the West African nation.

The former international soccer star may have easily defeated Joseph Boakai in the 2017 runoff, but results from the first round of balloting last month show the two neck and neck: Weah took 43.83% while Boakai brought in 43.44% of the total.

“We are going to an election where nobody has a competitive edge with a wide margin,” said Ibrahim Nyei, executive director at the Ducor Institute for Social and Economic Research.

In the weeks since the Oct. 10 first round, both candidates have been actively seeking the endorsements of the other small opposition parties. So far, Boakai has managed to win the backing of the third, fourth and fifth-placed finishers. While that amounts to only 5.6% of the vote, it could tilt the runoff in Boakai’s favor. Weah, meanwhile, has received the support of two other opposition parties.

Liberians could have a lengthy wait for results: It took electoral officials two weeks to announce the results of the first round and the need for a runoff.

In a final speech to voters, Weah stressed that “this runoff election is not just about re-electing me as president for a second term.”

“It is about Liberia’s future. It is about your children, your families, your communities, and the generations to come,” Weah said. “Together, we will continue to forge a path toward progress, peace, and prosperity.”

Weah won the 2017 election amid high hopes brought about by his promise to fight poverty and generate infrastructure development. It was the first democratic transfer of power in the West African nation since the end of the country’s back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that killed some 250,000 people.

But the 57-year-old president has been accused of not living up to key campaign promises that he would fight corruption and ensure justice for victims of the country’s civil wars.

Boakai, 78, has campaigned on a promise to rescue Liberia from what he called Weah’s failed leadership. He previously served as Liberia’s vice president under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically elected female leader.

“These runoff elections represent the final push to remove terror, lawlessness, corruption, indifference, neglect and incompetence that have plagued our country for six years,” he told Liberians in his final speech before Tuesday’s vote. “We are confident that Liberians will turn out again in their mass to demonstrate their love, courage, resilience, and determination to join us in rescuing our country.”


Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed.

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