Thousands of Liberians stood in hour-long lines and scorching heat on October 10, awaiting their turn to vote for their new president and legislators. No candidate won a majority in the presidential election, so a runoff vote is scheduled for November 7.
Still, the elections marked an important moment in the nation’s history. It is the first time that one democratically-elected government will willingly cede power to another since 1944. This comes 15 years after the end of the country’s second brutal civil war, when rebel groups seized power from the warlord and president Charles Taylor.
After the conflict’s conclusion, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the nation’s’ twenty-fourth president and Africa’s first democratically-elected female head of state. Under her leadership, the country has remained largely at peace.
Despite accusations of nepotism – two of her sons hold senior public roles – Liberia has also seen a dramatic decrease in rape, child soldiers, and warlords over the last 12 years of Sirleaf’s presidency. She received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 and the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, a favorite of western powers.
Now that her two six-year terms have come to an end, it is time for a new leader. The October 10 elections saw George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party earn 67 percent of the vote collectively, with 38 percent going to Weah and 28 to Boakai.
Weah is a former soccer star who ran and lost against Sirleaf in the 2005 election, but has served as senator since 2015. Boakai, meanwhile, is Sirleaf’s vice president, though Sirleaf has refused to endorse him.
Though it is difficult to say what either politicians’ intents are, as their platforms were notoriously vague, it seems likely that they will continue in Sirleaf’s democratic footsteps.