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Liberia election: Voting ends, counting on

*Results to be announced in due course

*This is a historic landmark for our country

Voting has ended and vote counting has begun in Liberia in the run-off presidential election between sitting Vice-President Joseph Boakai and former international footballer George Weah.

Mr Weah, 51, won the first round, but did not secure the required 50% of the vote for an outright victory.

Legal challenges delayed the vote to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president.

Monitors of the election rued turnout to have been low, but the result is expected to lead to the first smooth transfer of power in 73 years in the tiny west African nation.

More than two million people were eligible to cast their ballots in the nation of 4.6 million people, founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century. The result is expected any moment from now.

The contenders? The contest between Mr Boakai and former top-flight footballer George Opong Weah has been a stop-start exercise beset with legal wrangling.

Mr Boakai, 73, has been Liberia’s vice-president for 12 years but does not seem to enjoy the support of his boss, Ellen Sirleaf.

“This is a great day because it is a test of democracy,” he said after casting his vote.

George Opong Weah is hoping that it will be third time lucky. ”I am not associated with losing. Today’s victory is certain,” he told his supporters after casting his vote. He has been favoured by political pundits to get the people’s nod.

The former AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain player defeated Ms Johnson Sirleaf in the first round in 2005 but lost to her in the subsequent run-off. Nigeria was reportedly said to have played high diplomatic under hands to shift the ante then.

In the following election’s run-off, in 2011, when he ran as a running mate to the opposition candidate, his coalition boycotted the vote, citing irregularities.

First round vote is fraudulent: Despite indications of a low turnout, Liberia appears to have created the conditions for one elected president to hand over to another through the ballot box.

There’s still room for contestation, as the 10th October first round showed. The poll was followed by weeks of legal wrangling that ultimately led to the run-off being delayed. There were two petitions alleging fraud, including one from Mr Boakai.

Even as he voted on Tuesday, the vice-president repeated his scepticism about the first round. Mr Weah also hinted that there had been fraud in the first round.

National Electoral Commission says the result will be confirmed within days.

Why was the vote delayed? A representative for the opposition Liberty Party, Charles Brumskine, who came third in October’s first round, challenged the result, saying it had been marred by “massive fraud and irregularities”.

But earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled that evidence of fraud was insufficient to merit a re-run of the opening round, and the run-off, originally due on 7th November, was announced.

Democratic historical landmark: This will be the first time for many generations that Liberians will be witnessing a transfer of power from one elected leader to another.

Ms Sirleaf took office in 2006, after her predecessor, Charles Taylor, was forced out by rebels in 2003, ending a long civil war.

Taylor is serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

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