Compiled by: James Kamara-Manneh

Liberians will head to the polls on Oct. 10 for what will be their country’s fourth general election since the end of its second civil war in 2003. In the presidential race, incumbent candidate George Weah is competing against 19 challengers, while in the concurrent legislative election, over 150 candidates are running for 73 House of Representatives seats and 15 Senate seats.

President Weah’s main rivals are former Vice President Joseph Boakai, businessman Alexander Cummings, and human rights lawyer Taiwan Gongloe. While Weah commands strong popularity (in part due to his former stardom as a soccer player), high inflation, rampant corruption and alleged extrajudicial killings challenge his reelection.

The former soccer star, who came to power in 2017 on a wave of popular support after two unsuccessful attempts, said he was on track to deliver progress in the poverty-stricken West African country, despite the coronavirus pandemic which he said dealt a setback to his original plans.

“We have done almost 90% of what needs to be done, that is why we are coming back to you saying, extend our time,” Weah told a rally on crowd in Liberia.

As in 2017, Weah is campaigning on building new roads, a timely subject during elections which come around in the rainy season when much of the country’s unpaved routes are cut off from the capital Monrovia by bad weather.

“I want history to show that rural roads in Liberia were paved by George Weah,” he said.

Weah, 57, had a storied athletic career, rising from the slums of Liberia to the summit of world soccer playing for top clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan.

The winner of the presidential race must secure 50% of the total vote cast, plus at least one more vote, in order to avoid a runoff.

His main challenger is former Vice President Joseph Boakai, 78, whom he defeated in a runoff in 2017 will go into the arena again for the hot seat.

However, political pundits are of the opinion that the incumbent stand a chance due to the division of the opposition. While the main opposition is campaign on the legacies of his former boss former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’ administration.

Last year, Weah fired his chief of staff and two other senior officials after the United States imposed sanctions on them for corruption. In 2018, a Liberian court issued arrest warrants for more than 30 former central bank officials in connection with $104 million that went missing.

“Weah said he was coming for change. But now, everything has got worse … Everything is hard,” said Josephine Musa, a small-business owner in Monrovia.

Maja Bovcon, senior Africa analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft, said Weah will likely win in the second round because he enjoys the incumbency dividend, and his success story as a former football star who rose from poverty has enduring appeal.

But she said his poor track record in the first term, and the loss of support of his key backer, former warlord Prince Yormie Johnson, could cost him votes. Johnson has switched his support to Boakai.

“Weah administration’s weak performance and reported links to numerous corruption scandals decreases the ruling party’s chance of obtaining a majority in the legislative elections,” Bovcon said.

However, a lack of strong, fresh opposition could work in his favour, as could solid economic growth. The economy expanded by nearly 5% last year, driven by gains in agriculture and mining, the World Bank says.

As the dice is thrown and the Liberian citizens decide their fate, Sierra Leone being their closest neighbor will be monitoring to get the elections outcome.

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