Liberians will go to the polls on Tuesday for the presidential runoff vote that pits former international footballer George Weah against incumbent Vice-President Joseph Boakai.
Weah, representing the Coalition for Democratic Change, won 38.8 percent of votes in the October 10 first round, while Boakai came in second place with 28.8 percent.
There was then a delay in the run-off, initially scheduled for November 7, after the party of a third candidate filed a complaint alleging “massive fraud and irregularities.”
However, the supreme court ultimately cleared the way for the vote to go ahead on December 26.
The polls are expected to mark the first time in 73 years that a democratically elected president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is peacefully handing over power to a successor chosen by the people.
The last peaceful transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents took place in Liberia in 1944, when former President Edwin Barclay handed over to William Tubman.
Liberia remains one of the poorest countries in the world and continues to struggle with the aftermath of the 2013 to 2015 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 4,000 people nationwide.
There are roughly 2.2 million registered voters in the country of 4.1 million.
Boosting the economy, creating jobs and fighting corruption were high on the agenda of both candidates’ campaigns.
Boakai, a former agriculture minister and World Bank consultant, is pledging to prioritise infrastructure development – with a focus on road construction – to open Liberia up to regional and international trade.
His 12 years as vice-president, as well as his experience of working in various economic sectors, are expected to gain Boakai many votes.
His main rival is retired striker Weah, who is promising to ignite economic recovery by fighting widespread corruption.
Weah was born in a slum in the capital, Monrovia, and worked as a switchboard technician at the national telecommunications company before gaining football fame.
Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state, shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with her compatriot Leymah Gbowee and pro-democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.
Sirleaf, 72, is often dubbed the “Iron Lady” and will retire after two six-year terms.
Liberia, a country founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, has had a turbulent history, with a brutal civil war that claimed more than 250,000 lives and displaced about a million people.
The war, which was notorious for its use of child soldiers, ended in 2003, and former warlord and president Charles Taylor has since been sentenced to 50 years in prison by The Hague for war crimes.
His ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor, is footballer Weah’s unlikely running mate.
n a statement in November, the US embassy in Monrovia urged that the run-off election be allowed to go ahead unimpeded.