Liberia’s closest election in two decades is heading to a runoff, according to official provisional results announced by the West African nation’s electoral commission, after neither the country’s president nor his main opponent secured a majority.
The election, held on Oct. 10, was the first such contest to be fully organized by Liberia’s government without financial support or assistance from international partners since the end in 2003 of a 14-year civil war that left 250,000 people dead.
As of Wednesday, the incumbent, George Weah, a former soccer superstar, had secured 43.8 percent of the vote, with more than 98 percent of the ballots counted. Joseph Boakai, a veteran of Liberian politics who served as vice president from 2006 to 2018 was trailing slightly, with 43.5 percent of the vote.
Although the vote was largely peaceful, hundreds of voters in one district will have to cast their ballots again this week after unidentified people stole ballot boxes in two polling stations in the country’s northeast.
Official results are expected later this month, but because none of the candidates drew the 50 percent needed for a first-round victory, Mr. Weah and Mr. Boakai are most likely to face each other in a runoff scheduled for November. It will be a rematch of the last election, in 2017.
This month’s vote in the coastal nation of 5.5 million has been seen as a test for the future of representative government in West Africa. The region has been rife with coups whose leaders then postpone elections once in power; presidents who have clung to office by abrogating term limits; and elections that have been tainted by claims of irregularities.
Mr. Weah was first elected in 2017 on promises to develop infrastructure projects and tackle widespread corruption. Although he has partly delivered on infrastructure, Mr. Weah has been accused of doing too little to fight corruption since officially taking office in January 2018.
Last year, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on three Liberian officials for corruption, including Mr. Weah’s chief of staff, Nathaniel McGill. Mr. Weah has promised an investigation but has yet to follow through.
About 2.4 million people were eligible to vote in Liberia.
As results trickled in this past week, leading figures from both parties claimed victory, despite the tight margin between the two main candidates.
And supporters of Mr. Weah’s party, the Coalition for Democratic Change, disturbed the vote-tallying process in at least two areas over the weekend, according to a coalition of civil society groups overseeing the election. Nine election workers have also been arrested, including in the capital, Monrovia, on suspicions of altering results on tally sheets, according to the Liberian police.