Former footballer George Weah takes early lead in presidential election

Former international footballer George Weah has taken an early lead in Liberia's presidential election as the West African nation begins releasing provisional results.

National Election Commission date shared late yesterday showed Weah, of the Coalition for Democratic Change, ahead in 14 of Liberia's 15 counties with Vice President Joseph Boakai, of the Unity Party, leading in his home county, Lofa.

With 20 candidates in the race, observers expect a run-off election.

George Weah, presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change, casts his vote

NEC chairman Jerome Korkoya warned that the early results represent a small portion of the total vote, and he cautioned candidates' supporters against declaring victory.

Liberia is seeking a successor to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who led the country as it recovered from civil war and the Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians.

One of the largest political parties called for a halt to vote-counting yesterday, alleging voting irregularities and fraud. Angry Liberty Party supporters claimed that polls opened late and that ballot-tampering occurred in at least one location in the capital, Monrovia.

"These people stood in the rain and under the sun. These people sacrificed," the party's vice chairman for political affairs, Abe Darius Dillon, told the Associated Press.

The Liberty Party's candidate is Charles Brumskine, a corporate lawyer who came third in elections in 2005 and fourth in 2011.

George Weah in his Chelsea days

The election commission is ready to listen to official complaints but the vote-counting will continue, said spokesman Henry Boyd Flomo.

"The constitution mandated us to conduct elections and declare results therefore in 15 days," he said. "We've got no option but to live with that."

He said he could not address the accusation of ballot-tampering but acknowledged that many voters found it difficult to find their polling station. Everyone was allowed to vote, he added.

The Carter Centre, which observed elections, commended Liberians "for the calm and peaceful atmosphere" of the vote. It noted difficulties with long queues and management of voter lists but said it could not give a final assessment until vote-counting is complete.

"No matter the outcome of this election, it will result in a transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another for the first time in the lives of many Liberians," it said in a statement.

- AP


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