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Liberia - 2017 Election

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 78, had many accomplishments to boast since she became Africa’s first modern female head of state. The economy is four times the size it was when she took office in 2005. The gangs of drug addled youths who raped and mutilated their way across the nation during a civil war that ended in 2003 are a vivid but receding memory.

Charles Taylor, the warlord who ruled in Liberia’s darkest days, is now in a British jail, serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity, including terrorism, pillage, rape, murder and sexual slavery the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal since Nuremburg.

Yet the country is still one of the world’s poorest. It survived another existential crisis three years ago with an outbreak of the Ebola virus that overwhelmed its health services. Residents complain of corruption from officials and poor public services, and say that while they are thankful for the peace that Johnson Sirleaf brought, they are excited about the prospect of change.

Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Boakai said November 04, 2015 he’s running to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the 2017 presidential election. He said he would run on the Sirleaf government’s record, which he said includes 10 years of unbroken peace, infrastructure development and freedom of the press. Boakai brushed off criticisms by some who say the Sirleaf government, in power now for 10 years, has failed to deliver basic infrastructures such as dependable electricity and running water.

A consortium of political parties and civil society groups rallied in March 2016 month to urge an extension of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) after its mandate ends in June. The groups said they don’t trust the Liberian security during the 2017 election. An official for Liberia’s main opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change, told VOA it wants UNMIL's continued presence to safeguard "democratic governance and free and fair elections in 2017."

A dozen political parties in Liberia joined forces to take on the ruling Liberty Party in the 2017 presidential election. Senator Prince Johnson told VOA Daybreak Africa 19 September 2016 that “We want continue our peace that we celebrated some time ago. We do not want to see violence. So we all met to discuss the issue how to collaborate and move our country forward. The Constitution bars President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from seeking a third term, but her vice president — Joseph Boakai — was expected to run.

The Congress for Democratic Change, the National Patriotic Party and the Liberia People Democratic Party signed an agreement in November 2016 to work together for the 2017 election. According to an agreement, the Congress for Democratic Change, is supposed to produce the standard bearer and the standard bearer will have to pick his vice vice president standard bearer who will not come from the Congress for Democratic Change.

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged peaceful elections as candidates begin campaigning to replace the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has led the West African country through the Ebola crisis and recovery from civil war.

Twenty candidates are standing to replace Johnson Sirleaf in a first round on Tuesday. With nobody likely to win a majority outright, the top two are expected to face each other in a run-off in around a month. While the election campaign has been rambunctious, it has been mainly peaceful so far, and most expectations are that it will come off without bloodshed.

Among those running in the 10 October 2017 election are her vice president and two of the men she faced during Liberia's last vote in 2011. Among the top candidates is her vice president, 72-year-old Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who has been endorsed by Sirleaf and appears to be profiting from a divided opposition.

Former soccer star George Weah, a current senator who ran as vice president on the 2011 ticket that lost to Sirleaf, also is mounting a bid. It is his second attempt at the presidency after losing in 2005. His running mate is Jewel Taylor, a fellow senator and the ex-wife of former President Charles Taylor. The former Liberian leader was convicted of crimes against humanity for his role in the violence in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Another repeat candidate is Prince Johnson, a one-time rebel leader who has long been involved in politics. Human rights activist MacDella Cooper is the lone female presidential candidate. She has said that as president she would reduce her salary to $1 a year.

One of Liberia's largest political parties called for a halt to counting votes from the country's presidential election 12 October 2017, alleging irregularities and fraud as ex-soccer star George Weah took an early lead based on partial provisional results. Angry Liberty Party supporters who gathered at the party's headquarters claimed polls in the West African nation opened late and that ballot-tampering occurred in at least one location in the capital, Monrovia. Provisional results released by the National Election Commission showed Weah ahead in 14 of Liberia's 15 counties. Vice President Joseph Boakai led in his home county, Lofa.

With 20 candidates in the race, observers expected the vote to go to a runoff election. A presidential candidate must win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second round.

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