Oct 18, 2017 Last Updated 10:50 AM, Oct 18, 2017
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Former football star George Weah and Vice-President Joseph Boakai are headed for a run-off in Liberia's presidential election.

Nearly all the results from Tuesday's poll have been counted, the election commission says.

Mr Weah, the first African to win the Ballon D'Or football award, is leading with 39%, while Mr Boakai is in second place with 29%.

A second round between the pair is expected next month.

They lead the field of 20 candidates who competed to succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female elected president and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Fewer than 5% of polling stations have yet to declare results, and lawyer Charles Brumskine is in third place with 9.8%.

Both Mr Weah and Mr Boakai had predicted they would win the first round of voting.

Mr Weah's former manager on the football field, Arsene Wenger, was earlier this week apparently duped by false reports that he had already been elected president.

He told reporters: "It's not often you have a former player who becomes president of a country. So well done, Georgie."

Liberia, which was founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power in 73 years.

Ms Sirleaf took office in 2006, after her predecessor, Charles Taylor, was forced out of office by rebels in 2003, ending a long civil war.

Taylor is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Mr Weah, 51, has chosen Taylor's ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate.

Partial results from Liberia's presidential election show former football star George Weah has taken an early lead.

Figures from the National Elections Commission (NEC) put Mr Weah ahead in 11 out of 15 counties, although most votes have yet to be counted.

His main rival, incumbent Vice-President Joseph Boakai, leads in one county and is second in most others.

A candidate needs more than 50% of the votes for outright victory.

If no-one achieves that, a second round will be held in November.

The election is to choose a successor to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Africa's first elected female president and a Nobel Peace laureate.

As the results came in, the manager of Arsenal Football Club, Arsene Wenger, was apparently duped by false reports that Mr Weah had won.

"I would like to congratulate one of my former players, who became president of Liberia," Mr Wenger told reporters.

"It's not often you have a former player who becomes president of a country. So well done, Georgie.

NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya hit out at false reports and said his officials were doing their best to get accurate official results out as quickly as possible.

"This commission has not declared any winner," he stressed.

International election observers said they had not identified any major problems with Tuesday's voting.

However, parties supporting three of the 20 candidates have alleged irregularities and said they would contest the result, Reuters reported.

Ms Sirleaf, 78, who is stepping down at the end of two terms, hailed the election as a success.

"We believe that all Liberians are ready for this process. I thank them for participating in this process," she said.

Liberia, which was founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power in 73 years.

Ms Sirleaf took office in 2006, after her predecessor, Charles Taylor, was forced out of office by rebels in 2003, ending a long civil war.

Taylor is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Mr Weah, 51, has chosen Taylor's ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate.

Counting was underway in Liberia on Wednesday following a peaceful poll that will determine President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's successor after 12 years and complete a historic democratic transfer of power.

The first official results in the presidential and legislative elections are expected on Wednesday afternoon from the National Elections Commission (NEC), which has already suggested that turnout was high.

Some voters who appeared at the wrong polling station or were registered more than once were unable to cast their ballot, the NEC has said without putting a figure on those affected, triggering concern from political parties.

The nation's 2.18 million registered voters made their choice from a crowded field of 20 presidential candidates - including just one woman - and elected 73 parliamentarians for the lower chamber, the House of Representatives.

Frontrunners for the presidency include footballing icon George Weah, incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai, long-time opposition figure Charles Brumskine and upstart former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings.

Telecoms tycoon Benoni Urey and former central bank governor Mills Jones could also secure significant vote shares.

"We expect 2005 and 2011 to replay itself in 2017," Ibrahim Al-Bakri Nyei, Liberian political analyst at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), told AFP.

In both those previous elections Weah's CDC party and Sirleaf's Unity Party went into a run-off round of voting.

Boakai has the backing of the Unity Party this year.

If no candidate wins 50 percent of the presidential vote, then the run-off of the top two contenders will be held on 7 November.

The vote is seen as a crucial test of Liberia's stability.

Sirleaf, Africa's first female elected head of state, is stepping down after a maximum two six-year terms in which she steered the country away from the trauma of civil war, but, say critics, failed to tackle its poverty.

Cummings' ANC party said it was aware of late ballots and voters with valid voting cards being turned away, saying in a statement it was "confident the National Elections Commission (NEC) is doing all that it can to ensure registered voters are not disenfranchised."

Back-to-back civil wars, the 2014-16 Ebola crisis and slumped commodity prices have left Liberia among the world's poorest nations, while corruption remains entrenched.

Liberians are set to go to the polls to choose a successor to Africa's first elected female president and Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Ex-football star George Weah and Vice-President Joseph Boakai are the main contenders in the race to succeed her.

Liberia, founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power in 73 years.

Ms Sirleaf urged people to vote peacefully in a nation still recovering from a 14-year civil war.

"Your vote is about you and your family - not party, ethnicity," she said in an address to to the nation.

A total of 20 presidential candidates are running to succeed Ms Sirleaf.

They include Alex Cummings, a former Coca-Cola executive, and MacDella Cooper, an ex-model and girlfriend of Mr Weah.

Ms Sirleaf, 78, is stepping down at the end of her two terms.

She took office in 2006, after her predecessor, Charles Taylor, was forced out of office by rebels in 2003.

Taylor is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Mr Weah, 51, has chosen Taylor's ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate.

This is the former footballer of the year's third attempt to become president.

Ms Sirleaf has failed to campaign for Mr Boakai, fuelling speculation that the two have fallen out.

Supporters of Mr Boakai, 72, are campaigning under the slogan: "Our ma [Ms Sirleaf] spoil it, our pa will fix it."

Almost 2.2 million people are registered to vote in the election.

Parliamentary elections are also due to be held at the same time.

Campaigning has been dominated by promises to tackle poverty, corruption, and guarantee stability in the West African state.

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 50% of people living in poverty.

It was one of three West African states badly hit by the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak which left more than 11,300 people dead.

Liberia Football Association president Musa Bility says fellow Fifa presidential candidate Michel Platini is an "unacceptable" choice.

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