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Optimism ahead of Liberia's election

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By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
Optimism ahead of Liberia's election

<p>After a dozen years of recovery under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberians are optimistic about their first power transfer for 73 years.</p> <h3><strong>How many candidates are standing in the election?</strong></h3> <p>Twenty. The first round of the vote is on Tuesday.</p> <p>Observers think no one is likely to win a majority outright. This means the top two candidates are expected to face each other in a run-off in around a month.</p> <h3><strong>Who is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf?</strong></h3> <p>A former finance minister in the 1970s who fled after a coup and worked for the World Bank and Citibank during her exile.</p> <p>Supporters say she restored a measure of professionalism to a government that had been seized by a military junta in 1980.</p> <p>Outside her home country, Johnson Sirleaf has served as an ambassador for peace in an unstable region.</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="fr"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">She has spoken up for human rights and tolerated dissent <a href="https://t.co/yiNpYHwbBw">https://t.co/yiNpYHwbBw</a></p>— The Economist (@TheEconomist) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheEconomist/status/916233292483055617?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">6 octobre 2017</a></blockquote><br /> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <h3><strong>But?</strong></h3> <p>Many Liberians say she failed to stamp out graft and nepotism that have held the country back.</p> <p>Her son, Robert Sirleaf, was a senior advisor and ran state oil firm <span class="caps">NOCAL</span> which collapsed after his tenure as crude prices slumped in 2015.</p> <p>Her other son, Charles, was among 45 government officials suspended in 2012 for failing to declare their assets to anti-corruption authorities. Johnson Sirleaf declared her assets this year.</p> <p>Last year a grand jury indicted government officials, including the speaker of parliament on charges including bribery.</p> <h3><strong>Who are the other candidates?</strong></h3> <p>Among the front-runners seen as likely to win a place in the run-off are Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, representing the ruling Unity Party, and football star George Weah. He lost to Johnson Sirleaf in 2005.</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="fr"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">My final campaign message to the Liberian people <a href="https://t.co/R63AoudA6Y">https://t.co/R63AoudA6Y</a></p>— George <span class="caps">WEAH</span> Official (@GeorgeWeahOff) <a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgeWeahOff/status/917311479753388032?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">9 octobre 2017</a></blockquote><br /> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p>Weah has served in the Senate since 2014 for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change.</p> <p>Many candidates have promised a break from the past. </p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="fr"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Here is a list of Liberia’s top presidential candidates and what you may not know about them. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LiberiaDecides?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LiberiaDecides</a> <a href="https://t.co/6Cy1B602uk">pic.twitter.com/6Cy1B602uk</a></p>— <span class="caps">CGTN</span> Africa (@cgtnafrica) <a href="https://twitter.com/cgtnafrica/status/917382416989409280?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">9 octobre 2017</a></blockquote><br /> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <h3><strong>Have things been peaceful so far?</strong></h3> <p>Yes. The campaign has been rambunctious but has passed off without incident so far.</p> <p>The expectation is that it will come off without bloodshed.</p> <h3><strong>What kind of situation is Liberia in?</strong></h3> <p>Pretty good. 78-year-old Johnson Sirleaf has a lot to boast about since she became Africa’s first modern female head-of-state.</p> <p>The economy is four times the size it was when she took office in 2005. Violent gang warfare is a receding memory.</p> <p>Analsysts say the recovery has been remarkable. <span class="caps">GDP</span> for the country of 4.6 million reached 2.1 billion dollars last year, up from just 550 million the year Johnson Sirleaf took office.</p> <p>Charles Taylor, the warlord who ruled in Liberia’s darkest days is now in a British jail, serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity, including terrorism, pillage, rape, murder and sexual slavery.</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="fr"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Liberia’s jailed warlord Charles Taylor looms large as his ex-wife runs for office with former footballer <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/premium?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#premium</a><a href="https://t.co/BBkKkXefiD">https://t.co/BBkKkXefiD</a></p>— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) <a href="https://twitter.com/Telegraph/status/916785208862629893?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">7 octobre 2017</a></blockquote><br /> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <h3><strong>Is it all good news, then?</strong></h3> <p>Not quite. Liberia is still one of the world’s poorest countries. Its health services were overwhelmed three years ago by an outbreak of the Ebola virus.</p> <p>Residents complain of corrupt officials and poor public services. They are looking forward to the prospect of change.</p> <h3><strong>What they are saying</strong></h3> <p>“For me, the only thing about this administration is peace. I gave her a plus in that. She has not been able to deal with corruption, she failed to deal with people who took money to build their big houses,” – <strong>Timothy Sambulah</strong>, a taxi driver in the capital, Monrovia.</p> <p>“There will be no business as usual. We are going to end the ear of selective justice so people are given equal protection under the law,” – <strong>Charles Walker Brumskine</strong>, Liberal Party candidate.</p> <p>“High-level corruption has been a slap in the face for Liberians, most of whom live in abject poverty,” – <strong>Liberian political analyst Robtel Neajai</strong>.</p>