Long queues formed in the pouring rain from dawn as Liberia went to the polls. It is the West African state’s second presidential election since its civil war.
The result could prove pivotal for the country’s economy with investors reportedly ready to sink billions of dollars into its mining sector and potential emergence as an oil nation.
The incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last week, faces 15 challengers. Some analysts say she is less popular at home and predict a tight race.
Her closest rival is Winston Tubman. The Cambridge educated lawyer was fourth in 2005 and has taken former football superstar George Weah as his running mate to boost his appeal. Weah had stood six years ago.
Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state is held in high regard by the international community. At home she has come under criticism for not doing enough for ordinary people,who remain amongst the poorest in the world.
This election will be the first locally-organised poll since the end of the 1999-2003 conflict which killed nearly a quarter of a million people.