Former football star George Weah and incumbent Vice-President Joseph Boakai on Saturday edged closer to competing in a run-off vote for Liberia’s presidency, with three quarters of polling stations counted.
Weah now commands 39.2 percent of votes cast and counted while Boakai has taken 29.6 percent, the chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC) Joseph Korkoya told journalists in Monrovia.
If no single candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be scheduled in November between the top two contenders, according to Liberian law.
Whoever wins the vote will take over power from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has served a maximum two terms and is stepping down after 12 years.
Although Weah strengthened his lead over Boakai from partial results released on Friday, further increasing his vote margin by more than 10 percentage points would be a significant challenge.
The NEC said 1,193,331 votes have been counted so far, with turnout at 74.35 percent, a trend which means that Weah would need to win a majority in almost all the remaining districts in a nation of 2.18 million registered voters.
The pair are well clear of the 18 other candidates, though longtime opposition leader Charles Brumskine took 9.7 percent of votes counted and Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings is on 6.9 percent, meaning the role of their supporters will be significant if a run-off is called.
Weah is ahead in 12 of Liberia’s 15 counties including Montserrado, its most populous, while Boakai leads in two including his home county Lofa.
Boakai said earlier Saturday he was still confident of winning without the need for a second round vote.
“I am sure of winning the first round,” he told journalists. “If there is second round we will go for it but I am sure of being the winner at the end of the day,” he added.
NEC chairman Korkoya also said he had ordered a re-run in the town of Dulay, where a presiding officer was allegedly caught stuffing extra ballots by an observer after polls had closed.
The polling official was now in custody, Korkoya said, but the total of final results of the election will not be known until polling in the area is completed on Tuesday.
Meanwhile counting in legislative elections also held last Tuesday is only 30 percent complete.