MONROVIA (Reuters) - Former soccer star George Weah leads in partial presidential election results in 11 of Liberia’s 15 counties, the electoral commission said on Thursday, after a vote meant to bring about the country’s first democratic transfer of power in decades.
Early results from Tuesday’s poll read to reporters by the commission’s chairman left Weah’s camp confident he would win the outright majority he needs to avoid a run-off, even though most counties had reported tallies from less than a third of polling stations.
The other favorite in the 20-candidate field, Vice-President Joseph Boakai, led in just one county, although he was running in second in most others.
“I can say for sure that Ambassador George Manneh Weah is going to be the next president of the Republic of Liberia,” Weah’s adviser Mulbah Morlu told Reuters. “The people of Liberia have spoken.”
The final results must be announced by Oct. 25 and a run-off will be held next month if no one has won a majority.
Before the commission’s announcement, parties backing three other candidates alleged fraud and vowed to contest the results. But international observers said they had seen no major problems with the vote.
“The overall conduct of the voting was generally assessed as either good or very good,” the EU mission said in a statement on Thursday.
Observers from the U.S.-based Carter Center and National Democratic Institute (NDI) also said they had not identified any major issues with the voting or subsequent counting.
The allegations of irregularities centered on charges that extra ballots were printed in advance and marked with votes for Boakai from the ruling Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
However, none of the parties provided evidence of cheating. A Unity Party leader declined to respond to the accusations.
Earlier in the day, Johnson Sirleaf, who became Africa’s first elected female president when she won a surprise victory in 2005 following a post-war transition, hailed the election as historic.
“We believe that all Liberians are ready for this process. I thank them for participating in this process,” she told reporters.
Liberia, Africa’s oldest modern republic, was founded by freed U.S. slaves in 1847 but its last democratic power transfer occurred in 1944.
Additional reporting by Emma Farge and Edward McAllister in Dakar; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Joe Bavier and Andrew Heavens