George Weah and Joseph Boakai in another tight electoral contest
By Paul Ejime
Liberia’s 2.4 million registered voters return to the polls on Tuesday for the run-off vote between President George Weah and his perennial rival former Vice President Joseph Boakai after an inconclusive first round that involved 20 candidates on 10th October 2023.
Former footballer Weah, 57, of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), led in the first round with 43.83% of the vote, against 43.44% scored by Boakai, 78, of the Unity Party (UP).
Boakai served as vice-president 2006-2017 to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Laureate and Africa’s first elected female Head of State
In the 2017 run-off, Weah defeated Boakai by 61%.
With less than 8,000 votes separating both men in the 10 October, 2023, first round, the run-off is expected to be very competitive.
The political environment has been generally peaceful, but for isolated violent incidents reported in at least four of the 15 Counties – Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Montserrado, among other flashpoints in the country that is yet to fully recover from two civil wars that ended in 2002 after claiming some 250 000 lives and displacing hundreds of thousands others.
It is the first post-war presidential election without the presence of the United Nations Mission, which ended its operation in Liberia in 2018.
Political horse trading is rife with Tuesday’s vote considered as a referendum on the Weah administration, characterised by high youth unemployment, inflation, general economic hardship, and alleged official corruption.
Weah government’s removal of subsidy on rice, the country’s major staple and subsequent increase in the price of the commodity led to opposition-led protests last December.
The candidate with a simple majority of votes wins the run-off in the tight contest on Tuesday, with the pendulum expected to swing in Boakai’s side this time around after several attempts, according to analysists.