Journalists and party officials in Liberia converged on the National Elections Commission (NEC) headquarters in Monrovia on Thursday, waiting to hear any official results from Tuesday’s presidential and legislative elections.
Plenty of rumors were making the rounds, including reports that former football star and Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) presidential candidate George Weah had won. Yet the NEC repeatedly warned that no official results had been made public, keeping the crowds waiting as 5 p.m. came and went in the West African nation.
Many analysts expected a second-round runoff vote, given that some 20 candidates ran in the contest for president with numbers that likely make a runoff round inevitable. The independent Liberian Observer said Thursday that it envisions Weah and Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party in that contest as they appeared – from unofficial polling reports – to run far ahead of the rest of the field.
More than 2 million Liberians were registered to vote in these elections, although it remains to be seen how many actually went to the polls. The election itself was widely peaceful, despite a few protests in Bong County prompted by voters who say they were turned away from the polls because their names were not on the register.
The incident was one of a handful where procedural complications were reported, as international observers including those from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said they were pleased with the peaceful process so far.
The AU said it anticipated a credible election as, given the history of conflict and Liberian elections, this was “the first truly democratic transfer of power in the country.”
The European Union said that its 81 observers saw a calm voting process, but one that was slow with long lines at the polls. The EU also noted an advantage to the incumbent UP because the “use of state resource to the advantage of candidates from the incumbent party and a more general uneven playing field for candidates. Although access to media was granted, there was no free airtime in the state broadcaster.”
Access to media and possibility to campaign “ultimately depended on financial wealth, something that created unequal chances for candidates, and especially female ones,” the EU said in a statement on Thursday.
Image: NEC Liberia