A Race for the Future

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Liberian voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose their next president and the direction of their country in a runoff vote following the tightest elections in two decades, Reuters reported.

Incumbent President George Weah failed to secure enough votes in last month’s general election and will face off against his rival, former Vice President Joseph Boakai, to be the nation’s next leader.

Final election results showed Weah won nearly 43.83 percent of the vote in the Oct. 10 election, while Boakai secured 43.44 percent. Election officials said voter turnout was nearly 79 percent – a new record.

It was the first election to take place without financial support or assistance from international partners since the 2003 end of a 14-year civil war that left an estimated 250,000 people dead, the New York Times wrote.

At the same time, it’s a race that comes amid economic woes and a depreciating currency in the West African nation, Bloomberg reported. Meanwhile, the country’s economy is still struggling to recover from the civil war and the Ebola virus outbreak, which peaked in 2014.

Observers said the elections are seen as a test of support for Weah, a former international soccer star, whose first six-year term was marked with price increases in fuel and food. The soaring costs sparked an economic crisis and violent protests late last year.

International partners have also criticized Weah for not doing enough to tackle corruption in the country since he was first elected in 2017, according to Reuters.

Income per capita remains about one-third of its pre-civil war level, and only seven percent of the roads in Liberia are paved. The Liberian dollar has experienced a significant depreciation of 18 percent against the US dollar this year, ranking it as the fifth-worst-performing African currency.

Meanwhile, the election is also seen as a test for the future of democracy in West Africa. The region has been rife with coups, presidents remaining in power past their term limits and elections marred by violence and irregularities, the New York Times said.

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