Vote counting was underway in Liberia on Tuesday during an election in which President George Weah is seeking a second term after six years marred by corruption allegations and abiding economic hardship in Africa’s oldest independent republic.
Around 2.4 million people were eligible to vote in the West African nation still struggling to emerge from two civil wars that killed over 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003 and from a 2013-16 Ebola epidemic that killed thousands.
“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 fish seller Nanny Davies, a mother of six who queued alongside hundreds of others at the Baptist Field polling centre in the capital Monrovia.
Election officials said turnout was high in a poll which will test the popularity of Weah, a beloved soccer star who rose from the slums of Monrovia to play for some of the world’s largest clubs, but who has struggled to chip away at the impoverished country’s enduring problems.
The counting, in which some election officials tallied votes in notebooks by lamplight, began after dark at polling stations across the capital. The commission will begin releasing provisional results on Wednesday. To avoid a runoff, the winner must secure over 50% of votes cast.
No major incidents were reported and the voting was calm and orderly at various voting centres visited, said a team of observers from the Economic Community of West African States.
Logistical problems occurred, however, and some waited hours to vote. Election materials were delayed by flooding in Sinoe and Rivercess counties, the National Elections Commission (NEC) said. Some ballots were transported by canoes that capsized. Voting will be extended in those areas, the NEC said.
Still, many saw the peaceful vote as a success.
“I feel relief today,” said Richmond Anderson, who voted in Monrovia. “I want to see development here. If we have good leaders, we will not be suffering.