By Eric Elezuo
The tension generated by the October 10 Liberian election has reached fever pitch as notable candidates spend sleepless nights expecting the outcome.
The race as at press time has been opened to only two of the 20 candidates who started in charming hopefulness in a bid to replace the first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who has served a whopping 12 years on the throne.
However, more figures, though classified as partial, released by the National Electoral Commission, Liberia’s electoral body Friday showed that the favourite, former footballer George Weah is way ahead of incumbent Vice-President, Joseph Boakai as the battle for the presidency gets hotter.
With 33.71 percent of polling stations counted, Weah took the lead with 39.7 percent (205,218 votes), while Boakai claimed 31.2 percent, (161,413 votes), the National Elections Commission (NEC) said.
The pair is well clear of all other candidates.
The released partial results further suggested that third and fourth places are held by longtime opposition leader, Charles Brumskine with 9.4 percent (48,390 votes), and former Coca-Cola executive, Alexander Cummings took 6.7 percent (34,672), respectively.
The candidates are battling for a 50 per cent majority of votes cast to win out rightly and avoid a runoff. However, if no single candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote a runoff will be scheduled in November between the top two contenders, according to Liberian law, but whether this will be necessary is not yet clear as George Weah continues to cruise in front.
It will be much more than necessary for Weah for secure a 50 percent majority to win in order not to fall victim of an unnecessary runoff which may be his undoing as was the case in 2005.
It will be recalled that Weah clearly defeated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2005 during the general election, but failed to secure a 50 per cent votes cast, prompting the election to go into runoff where he lost. A repeat will surely break Weah’s heart.
In the meantime, turnout of voters in the polling stations counted so far was high at 74.58 percent, revealed NEC Chairman, Jerome Korkoya.
The country, which has spent a chunk of its modern in wars, has 2.1 million registered voters, and if everything goes as well as it is going so far, the election should represent the nation’s first democratic transfer of power in seven decades.
Local and international observers have noted that Tuesday’s voting was generally free and fair although one party called for a halt to counting alleging irregularities. It was also noted that the long lines and confusion caused by polling staff were as a result of poor training.The problems caused many polling stations to close late and a delay in counting.
George Weah has till October 25 to wait before the NEC declares the final result; a very long wait barring a runoff though.
However, expectation for a Weah victory has made notable world to offer him premature congratulatory messages even as vote counting is still on. One of such people is Nigeria’s senator, Shehu Sani, representing a senatorial zone in Kaduna. Sani took to his twitter handle to congratulate Weah barely 24 hours of voting.
The man, George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah was born on October 1, 1966. He had been a professional footballer before into politics at retirement. He is regarded as one of the greatest African players of all-time and as one of the best forwards of his generation. In 1995, he was won the highest in football as he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first African player to win these awards.
In 1989, 1994 and 1995, he was named the African Footballer of the Year, and in 1996, he was named African Player of the Century. Known for his acceleration, speed, and dribbling ability, in addition to his goal scoring and clinical finishing, Weah was described by FIFA as “the precursor of the multi-functional strikers of today”. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
After starting his career in his home country of Liberia, Weah spent 14 years of his professional football career playing for clubs in France, Italy and England. Arsène Wenger brought him to Europe when he signed for Monaco in 1988.
Weah moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 1992 where he won Ligue 1 in 1994 and became the top scorer of the 1994–95 UEFA Champions League. He signed for Milan in 1995 where he spent four successful seasons, and won the Italian Serie A twice. His most notable goal in Italy saw him run the length of the field against Verona.
He moved to the English Premier League towards the end of his career and had spells at Chelsea and Manchester City, before returning to France to play for Marseille in 2001, and subsequently ending his career with Al-Jazira in 2003. At international level, he represented Liberia at the African Cup of Nations on two occasions.
An idol in Africa, Weah has been heavily involved in politics in his homeland Liberia. He ran unsuccessfully for president in the 2005 election, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In the 2011 election, he ran for vice president on Winston Tubman‘s ticket. Running as a Congress for Democratic Change candidate, Weah was elected to the Senate in 2014.
The coming days will determine if Weah will occupy the Liberian government house like Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, Ellen Sirleaf among others. It is really a long wait for victory; a 12 years anticipated victory!