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  • Liberian polls opened at 8:00 a.m.

    Liberian polls opened at 8:00 a.m. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 October 2017

Approximately 20 candidates and 73 members of the Upper House, but no senators, are expected to run for various positions.

The people of Africa's first republic, Liberia, head to the poll to elect their first new leader in over 70 years.

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Approximately 20 candidates and 73 members of the Upper House, or House of Representatives, but no senators, are expected to run for various positions.

There are roughly 2.2 million registered voters, almost one-half of Liberia's 4.6 million population.

A candidate can only be declared a winner if more than 50 percent of the votes are tallied for the runner. If there is no result, a second round of voting will take place. An estimated 20 percent of eligible voters are between the ages of 18 and 24.

Only one of the 20 presidential candidates are male. “Men have ruled for 158 of this country’s 170 years,” shared the candidate, MacDella Cooper. “The country has got accustomed to male leadership.”

Polls opened at 8:00 a.m. and will close at 6:00 p.m.

The provincial results are expected within 48 hours, but the electoral body has until Oct. 25.

Former rebel leader Prince Johnson is among candidates set to contest the office of the presidency. Johnson claimed that fellow candidate and former Liberian football star George Weah tried to broker an alliance.

“George Weah came to me ... and said ‘I’ll give you US$1 million, I want you to be my running mate.’ I said: ‘George, you are a small boy. I’ve been around here long.’ George Weah has nothing to offer – George Weah knows about football. Can he manage the country’s resources? No. This country needs a tough disciplinary man, a tough man who will use the law to the letter to bring change.”

Weah eventually teamed up with former President Charles Taylor’s ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor. The former head of state, Taylor, is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence for war crimes.

Former rebel leader Prince Johnson Photo: Reuters

Johnson is a controversial figure.

According to The Guardian, the former rebel leader allegedly ordered the murder of President Samuel Doe in 1990, during which he reportedly filmed drinking beer while watching Doe’s ear being severed.

Johnson, however, is undeterred by his past transgressions. “Liberians are naturally forgiving people,” he said. “You see, the civil war originally took place between the tribe of Samuel Doe and my tribe, but we all have reconciled. They have no reason not to forgive. They have every reason to forgive – because they started the problem.”

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Photo: Reuters FILE

The rebel leader, who supported current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her previous campaign, believes he is teetering on victory. “I don’t see why I should be kingmaker and not king,” he said.

Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president on the African continent, is set to demit office after a maximum 12-year stint. On Monday, she urged her countrymen to respect the result of the poll.

"Go to the polls peacefully, respecting every Liberian's right to vote with dignity and pride. Embrace your neighbor, regardless of their political choice," she said in a televised speech.

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"The future of the country is in your hands. Vote for the person and persons you believe will make Liberia a better place. The world will be watching. Let's make them proud," she added. “We all must respect the outcome of the election as declared by the National Elections Commission … The world will be watching, let’s make them and make ourselves proud,” the president added.

Ahead of the polls, women channeling a civil-war ritual camped out on the streets to pray for peace, while police conducted dry run riot operations.

Liberians tuned into local radio station OK FM to sing along to a post-war favorite: “If you know the answer, say yes. Yes. War is not the answer, say no. No.”

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