Liberia election: Weah leading in early count

Liberia’s electoral commission says football star George Weah leads in early election results, with Vice-President Joseph Boakai ahead in his home region. Supporters of a third candidate allege irregularities.

National Election Commission chairman Jerome Korkoya warned that early results of the presidential ballot, showing George Weah's Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in the lead, only represented a small sample of the overall electorate comprising 15 counties.

Among the provisional results announced, the only county with more than 30 percent of votes counted - Bong county - showed Boakai and Weah virtually neck-and-neck, with Weah a sliver ahead.

Weah was also leading in Montserrado county, his stronghold, although just 14.8 percent of ballots had been counted.

The slow emergence of provisional results since Tuesday's poll has kept Liberia on edge, with third contender Charles Brumskine claiming that irregularities were "deeply troubling."

Brumskine's Liberty Party had earlier called for a halt to the announcement of partial results.

Impartiality, urges EU mission

Despite result delays, a European Union observer mission said the "overall conduct of the voting was generally assessed as either good or very good."

EU mission head Maria Arena urged Liberian authorities to handle potential complaints with the "utmost impartiality" in a tense environment.

Meanwhile, electoral commission spokesman Henry Boyd Flomo said the body was mandated to declare results in 15 days. "We've got no option but to live with that," Flomo said.

The campaign manager for Boakai, Mohammed Ali of the Unity Party, asserted that the vice-president was heading for a second-round run-off poll against Weah.

November 7 is the date likely for a run-off if no candidate wins 50 percent of the presidential vote among 20 candidates in the race.

Analysts cited by the news agency AFP said former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings and his innovative campaign strategy appeared to have eaten into anticipated support for Weah and Boakai.

'Not satisfied'

Among reactions gathered by DW among voters, Joseph David Jr. said he heard "other people saying that CDC is going, United Party is going. From my observation, there will be a second round."

"I am not feeling satisfied with the result,” said Wanitta Glay. "I am with Brumskine. We know the kind of people we talked to and we know the kind of people we expected to vote for us. We know that they voted for us, but we are not getting the kind of vote that we expected."

Successor to Johnson Sirleaf

Voters were called to choose a successor to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who in 2005 became Africa's first elected female president as Liberia recovered from civil war and coped with an Ebola epidemic.

On local radio on Thursday, an official from Weah's CDC party, Mulbah Morlu, issued an invitation for a "pre-victory celebration" outside party headquarters.

In 2005, Weah, a former striker for French and Italian clubs, came second to Johnson Sirleaf. 

Former international football star George Weah

Restraint, urges Carter Center

The Carter Center, an NGO founded by former US President Jimmy Carter that also observed Liberia's election, urged restraint and called for a "peaceful atmosphere."

Late Thursday, the Carter Center noted difficulties with management of voter lists and long queues, but said it could not give a final assessment until vote counting was complete.

"No matter the outcome of this election, it will result in a transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another for the first time in the lives of many Liberians," said the Carter Center.

Earlier on Thursday, Johnson Sirleaf told reporters in Monrovia that she believed that Liberia was "ready for this [political transfer] process."

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ipj/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)