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11 Oct, 2023 14:26

Ex-football superstar seeks re-election in African country's presidential election

Despite corruption allegations and economic hardship, George Weah is running for a new term
Ex-football superstar seeks re-election in African country's presidential election

Liberians went to the polls on Tuesday to decide on a second term for former prominent footballer and incumbent President George Weah. Security issues and the economy are widely seen as being the top concerns of voters. 

Allegations of corruption and the ongoing economic hardship faced by Africa’s oldest independent republic tarnished Weah’s first term.  

There are 20 candidates in the presidential race. The country’s election commission will begin releasing preliminary results on Wednesday. A candidate needs to secure over 50% of the votes to avoid a runoff, which would be held in early November.

Observers were sent by the European Union, African Union, ECOWAS West African Bloc, and the US to oversee the voting. 

The main political parties promised peaceful elections, which are also being held for the country’s legislature. However, concerns about a return to bloodshed emerged after three people were killed in clashes between supporters of rival parties last month.

Violence also erupted on Sunday, when several people were injured during an election rally for Weah.

Weah, 57, entered politics following a career as an international footballer. He became the only African to win the Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual award in the game, in 1995, and played for top clubs such as Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and AC Milan. 

In 2017, Weah was elected during Liberia’s first democratic change of government in 70 years.  

These are the first elections since the UN ended its peacekeeping mission in Liberia in 2018 “This is also the first time that elections will be conducted without external security being provided by the UN mission that was present in Liberia. So security will be on the shoulders of Liberia’s security agencies,” Oscar Bloh, head of ECC, Liberia’s largest election observation group, told CNN. Bloh also expressed worry that the training of poll officials only began days before the elections. 

Many observers see this as a pivotal moment for Liberia, which endured two devastating civil wars that took the lives of 25,000 people between 1989 and 2003 and a deadly Ebola epidemic between 2013 and 2016.