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Liberia waiting to hear first results of runoff election

Former soccer star George Weah, presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change, casts his vote during a runoff election Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 in Monrovia, Liberia. (Abbas Dulleh / Associated Press)
Former soccer star George Weah, presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change, casts his vote during a runoff election Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 in Monrovia, Liberia. (Abbas Dulleh / Associated Press)
By Jonathan Paye-Layleh Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberia’s National Elections Commission was expected to begin releasing provisional results Wednesday from the West African nation’s presidential runoff as a football star and the vice president compete to replace Africa’s first female head of state.

State radio correspondents reported unofficial results overnight indicating that former international soccer player George Weah led in several counties, but election authorities warned the two parties to “stop making premature pronouncements.”

This is the first time in more than 70 years the nation founded by freed American slaves will see one democratically elected government hand power to another. Results will be announced progressively, though the elections commission has two weeks to give final results.

Nearly 2.2 million voters were choosing between the 51-year-old Weah and 73-year-old Vice President Joseph Boakai. The winner will replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is stepping down after two terms.

Weah led the first round of voting on Oct. 10 but didn’t get enough votes to win outright. The runoff was contested twice in court amid claims of irregularities, with its original Nov. 7 date delayed.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Sirleaf, 79, is stepping down after two terms in office that brought the impoverished country out of back-to-back civil wars and saw it grapple with a deadly Ebola outbreak.

As polls closed on Tuesday, election workers said turnout wasn’t as high as in October because legislative candidates who helped transport people to polling stations were not participating this time.

Some Liberians said they weren’t able to find their names at voting stations and couldn’t cast a ballot.

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