Former football player George Weah’s campaign said on Wednesday that he was on course to win Liberia’s presidential election run-off in the country’s first democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades.
Nearly 2.2 million voters are choosing between the 51-year-old Mr Weah and 73-year-old Joseph Boakai, the current vice president.
The winner will replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is stepping down after two terms.
Mr Boakai’s camp said the contest was still too close to call ahead of the first official results, expected as early as Thursday.
Unofficial partial results announced on local radio stations all showed Mr Weah in the lead.
Mr Weah, the only African ever to be named Fifa World Player of the Year, lost to Ms Johnson Sirleaf in a 2005 election as a political novice after a football career that took him to both Chelsea and Manchester City. He has served in Liberia’s senate since 2015.
A senior Weah adviser, Morluba Morlu, told Reuters he expected Mr Weah to win with about 70 per cent of the vote based on precinct-level vote tallies he said were trickling in from across the country after Tuesday’s vote.
“It is clear. We are only waiting for the (election commission) to announce the results and declare him president,” Morlu said. “We are calling on … Boakai to concede defeat and congratulate George Weah.”
Boakai spokesman Robert Kpadeh, however, predicted a close race.
“The numbers give us a good feeling,” he said. “From now to tomorrow morning, we should have bigger numbers from our strongholds. We are still optimistic that the numbers can favour us.”
Liberia, Africa’s oldest modern republic, was founded by freed US slaves in 1847, but its last democratic transfer of power occurred in 1944. After a violent military coup in 1980 it experienced instability and civil war that ended only in 2003.
In a statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the “orderly poll” and its peaceful conduct.