Liberia’s presidential election on Tuesday sees 19 candidates vying to replace President George Weah, who is seeking a second term.
If it goes to a second round of voting, three stand out as possible rivals to Weah, a former international football star who in 2017 won more than 61 percent in the second round. His election victory then sparked high hopes of change in one of the countries on the planet still reeling from civil war and disease.
Weah had spent the previous decade building political credibility, including three years in the Senate, to match his sporting icon status. Today, the 57-year-old is campaigning hard to convince Liberians he can still improve their lives.
Losing candidate in the final round of voting in 2017, Joseph Boakai looks to be on his last bid for the presidency at the age of 78. He has served the state for four decades.
Vice president to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from 2006 to 2018, Boakai can boast of his years of experience.
But the agriculture minister in the government of president Samuel Doe has been branded “Sleepy Joe” by opponents, who suggest it’s time to retire.
Boakai is from the indigenous population, like George Weah, and not the US-Liberian elite, who founded the free nation and were descended from slaves.
Boakai calls himself an ordinary, honest man from a modest background who had to work hard.
He says integrity has marked his long career which has included criticism of the Weah administration’s links to several corruption scandals.
He is running on a platform to improve infrastructure, invest in agriculture, attract investors, open up Liberia to tourists and restore the nation’s image.
Boakai has long been preparing for the election as the candidate for the Unity Party, one of the leading political groups in Liberia.
He has struck an alliance with former warlord and senator Prince Johnson, who had backed Weah in 2017, and retains strong support in his home province of Nimba in the north.
That has helped keep him among the favourites to reach the second round of voting.