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Liberia Votes To Elect New President

Liberians are voting in a general election to choose a new president, hopeful about their first democratic power transfer for 73 years.

Twenty candidates are standing to replace Johnson Sirleaf in a first round.

The top two candidates are expected to face each other in a run-off in around a month if nobody wins a majority outright.

The country’s economy is four times the size it was when Johnson Sirleaf took office. Its recovery since the war has been remarkable. GDP for the country of 4.6 million reached $2.1 billion last year up from just $550 million in 2005. Yet the country is still one of the world’s poorest.

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.

Liberia 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.

“For me, the only thing about this administration is peace. I gave her a plus in that,” said Timothy Sambulah, a taxi driver in the capital Monrovia. But, he said: “She has not been able to fight corruption. She failed to deal with people who took money to build their big houses.”

Last year a grand jury indicted government officials, including the speaker of parliament on charges including bribery.

Among the front-runners seen as likely to win a place in the run-off are Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, and football star George Weah, who lost to Johnson Sirleaf in 2005. Weah has served in the senate since 2014 for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change.

Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, was founded by freed U.S. slaves in the 19th century.

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