In Summary
  • Twenty candidates are vying to replace Ms Sirleaf, with footballing icon George Weah, incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai, longtime opposition figure Charles Brumskine and soft drinks millionaire Alexander Cummings considered front-runners.

  • Vice President Boakai has made infrastructure, especially road building, central to his campaign.

MONROVIA, Sunday

Liberians head to the polls on Tuesday to elect a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with hopes for a leader who will kickstart the economy and safeguard a fragile peace.

Ms Sirleaf will step down after 12 years at the helm of Africa’s first republic, whose back-to-back civil wars (1989-2003) and Ebola crisis (2014-16) have stunted growth and left Liberia among the world’s poorest nations.

Twenty candidates are vying to replace Ms Sirleaf, with footballing icon George Weah, incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai, longtime opposition figure Charles Brumskine and soft drinks millionaire Alexander Cummings considered front-runners.

Just one woman is seeking to follow Africa’s first elected female head of state — model-turned-humanitarian MacDella Cooper — but she has near-zero chance of winning, diplomats and analysts told AFP.

The elections of a president, vice president and members of the House of Representatives are a “crucial test for the democratic process in Liberia,” Maria Arena, chief observer of the European Union, told journalists in Monrovia this week.

PEACEFUL TRANSITION

“A peaceful transition from one elected president to another is important not only for Liberia but also as an example for the region,” she said.

Such a transition would be the first in living memory after seven decades of coups, assassinations and exiled dictators.

While ordinary Liberians are grateful that peace has held through Sirleaf’s two terms in office, living standards in Liberia remain dire for most and have become the focus of the campaign.

“We are doing everything ourselves to survive,” Mr Emmet Garokapee, a market trader, said as his head was shaved with a single razor blade at a backstreet barber for lack of electricity.

Liberia ranks 177 of 188 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index and 174 of 190 nations in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, and every candidate has laid out their plans to change the nation’s gloomy outlook.

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