by Olatunji Saliu
Following a pulsating campaign period that ended at midnight Sunday, Liberia is set to hold a presidential runoff Tuesday that will determine a clear winner between incumbent President George Weah and former Vice President Joseph Boakai.
In a video message released on Monday guiding citizens on how to vote during the second round of polls, Davidetta Lansanah, head of Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC), declared the campaign period over and urged citizens to conduct themselves well during the polls beginning 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday.
“You must not wear all campaign materials again since the campaigns are over. On Nov. 14, voting will end at 6 p.m. local time, and we expect you all to go back home and wait for the official announcement of the results by the NEC,” Lansanah said.
Ahead of the polls, the NEC also rounded off its civic and voter education program across the country to guide citizens on the peaceful conduct of the presidential runoff. In an earlier statement, the elections commission confirmed the deployment of the ballot papers and other sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials to the 19 magisterial offices in the 15 counties for onward distribution to the 2,080 voting precincts nationwide.
According to Liberia’s election laws, a presidential candidate must secure more than 50 percent of the total votes cast to avoid a runoff.
The elections commission declared a presidential runoff in late October between Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Boakai of the Unity Party, following an initial poll that saw none of the 20 presidential candidates securing the necessary percentage of votes required by the country’s electoral laws to claim outright victory.
Weah and Boakai won 43.83 percent and 43.44 percent of votes, respectively, in the first round.
Local analysts have described the presidential runoff on Tuesday as “the last dance” between the two political titans with a shared history dating back to the 2017 presidential election.
Six years ago, Weah, the former international football icon turned politician, and Boakai, a seasoned political veteran, battled fiercely for the presidency, culminating in a runoff that saw the former emerging victorious.
“Now, in a twist of fate, Liberia finds itself once again at the crossroads of a democratic spectacle, as these two political heavyweights vie for the nation’s top office. The electoral arena is alive with anticipation, reminiscent of the pulsating energy that gripped the nation six years ago,” Comfort Brown, a local political analyst, told Xinhua in an interview.
Weah has managed to maintain a strong support base, particularly among the youth who see in him a symbol of hope and change. His journey from the football field to the presidency has captured the imagination of many Liberians, who believe in his commitment to ushering in a new era of prosperity.
On the other side of the political divide stands Boakai, a seasoned statesman whose decades-long career in public service has earned him the respect of many. Boakai’s supporters see him as a stabilizing force, a leader with the experience and wisdom needed to navigate Liberia through the complexities of governance.
“The political landscape has evolved since their last clash, and both candidates have adapted their strategies to address the changing dynamics. The issues at the forefront of this electoral battle include economic revitalization, social development, and the ongoing fight against corruption. These are challenges that demand pragmatic solutions and visionary leadership,” Brown said.
Ahead of the first round of polls and the runoff on Tuesday, Liberians became more mindful of the impact of their choice by engaging in spirited debates, town hall meetings, and community forums to weigh the merits of each candidate.
The initial round of voting saw a high turnout of 1,949,155 voters, constituting 78.86 percent of the 2,471,617 registered voters, Lansanah said last month at a press conference in the national capital of Monrovia, describing it as “unprecedented in Liberia’s modern democratic election history.” She noted that the election also attracted some 10,000 national, regional and international observers accredited by the NEC.
This presidential runoff could have far-reaching implications, shaping Liberia’s trajectory and influencing political dynamics beyond its borders, according to Matthew Konton, an international relations expert based in the country’s Montserrado County.
“The international community is closely watching this electoral drama unfold, recognizing Liberia’s significance not only as a West African nation but as a symbol of democracy in a region often grappling with political instability,” Konton added.