By Festus Poquie
The two main contenders in the race for the Liberian presidency have failed to secure enough votes to avoid a runoff with almost all the results counted.
Ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and the main opposition Unity Party will go head to head again in November for voters to decide which of the two is fit to lead Liberia.
Weah garnered 43.79% of votes in the Oct. 10 poll, while former Vice President Joseph Boakai won 43.49%, according to provisional results released Tuesday by the National Elections Commission.
With 98.4% of the country’s 5,890 polling units counted, these results indicate that none of the contenders will get more than 50% of votes cast — the threshold required to be declared winner.
The commission estimated that about 1.9 million out of roughly 2.5 million people registered to vote cast their ballots.
A former FIFA World Footballer of the Year, Weah, 57, is seeking another term after a chaotic first six years in which a spike in food and fuel prices sparked an economic crisis and spawned violent protests in December. Boakai, 78, has used widespread anti-Weah sentiment to build support.
Liberia’s economy, which has large gold and iron-ore reserves, is struggling to recover from two civil wars that ended two decades ago, and its worst ever outbreak of the Ebola virus that peaked in 2014.
Per-capita income remains about a third of the level it was before the civil wars, and only about 7% of roads are paved. The Liberian dollar is the fifth-worst performing African currency tracked by Bloomberg against the greenback this year — depreciating 18%.
To address those challenges, the outgoing administration has pledged to create an enabling environment for business, cut debt, curb the currency’s weakness and use fiscal and monetary policy to drive inflation back to below 10% — if the former AC Milan star secures a second term.
Boakai has campaigned on turning around the economy by increasing farm output and building roads.