Liberians are going to the polls to choose a successor to Africa’s first elected female president and Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Ex-football star George Weah and Vice-President Joseph Boakai are the main contenders in the race to succeed her. Liberia, founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power in 73 years. Ms Sirleaf urged people to vote peacefully in a nation still recovering from a 14-year civil war.
“Your vote is about you and your family – not party, ethnicity,” she said in an address to the nation.
The head of the electoral commission, Jerome Kokoya, said program that polls would close at 18:00 GMT and that he expects early results to be announced by 23:00 GMT. He said that to avoid a run-off, the winner of the presidential race must get 50% plus one vote.
With so many candidates running, most analysts expect there to be a second round. Provisional results could come as soon as Wednesday but might take up to two weeks due to the poor state of the country’s infrastructure. Ms Sirleaf took office in 2006, after her predecessor, Charles Taylor, was forced out of office by rebels in 2003, ending the long civil war.
Taylor is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Mr Weah, 51, has chosen Taylor’s ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate. This is the former footballer of the year’s third attempt to become president. Ms Sirleaf has failed to campaign for Mr Boakai, fuelling speculation that the two have fallen out. Hundreds of Liberians are waiting in a queue that snakes from the gates of St Theresa convent, through South Beach slum almost reaching the shoreline behind.
Some elder members have brought plastic chairs to sit on – it is going to be a long day. Charles Daniel, 70, had been waiting since 06:30 GMT.
“We want a good leader, not a ruler,” he said.
Men and women carrying large buckets full of boiled eggs and other snacks to sell are here hoping to make a killing today. Similar scenes can be found at hundreds of polling stations in and around the capital this morning as Liberians prepare to elect their new president.
The streets of the capital are almost empty – everybody seems to be waiting patiently in line to cast their ballot. Almost 2.2 million people are registered to vote in the election. Parliamentary elections are also being held at the same time. Campaigning has been dominated by promises to tackle poverty, corruption, and guarantee stability in the West African state.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 50% of people living in poverty. It was one of three West African states badly hit by the 2014-15 Ebola outbreaks which left more than 11,300 people dead.