Unofficial results from Liberia's first post-war elections showed on Thursday that soccer star George Weah and former Finance Minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf may face a second-round run-off.
Two days after Tuesday's landmark presidential and parliamentary polls, results trickled in agonisingly slowly from a vote intended to draw a line under the West African country's brutal 14-year civil war.
As each piecemeal result was announced by local radio, residents in the crumbling capital Monrovia sent up loud cheers, women danced on the streets and taxis honked their horns.
With official results in from only 278 of the 3,070 polling stations, former AC Milan striker Weah lead the field of 22 presidential hopefuls with 23.7 percent of the vote, ahead of Harvard-trained economist Johnson-Sirleaf with 14.9 percent.
"With the current trend, it is likely that there will be a second round," National Elections Commission chief Frances Johnson-Morris told reporters.
Electoral officials have said a final result could take between three and seven days. If no candidate gains more than 50 percent, a run-off will be held no more than two weeks later.
If 66-year-old grandmother Johnson-Sirleaf wins, she would become Africa's first elected female president.
"I am sure there will be a second round. The race is just not clear. We keep seeing different people rising," said Simeon Tyler, a 34-year-old security guard. "It will be very difficult for anyone to get over 50 percent."
Some newspapers reported Johnson-Sirleaf in the lead, others put Weah ahead and still others said the contest would go to a second round.
Electoral chief Johnson-Morris cautioned voters against proclaiming a victory too soon, reports Reuters.
According to CNN, Former Liberian rebel leader and presidential candidate Sekou Conneh said Thursday he would accept elections results in a presidential ballot many hope will lead this war-ravaged west African nation to peace and prosperity.
"Whatever the results, we will accept it and quickly get together to rebuilt the country," Conneh told The Associated Press in comments addressing concerns that Liberia's history of violence could engulf it again despite the gains that made it possible to hold a peaceful vote.
"I am one of the happiest people today," Conneh said "The very reason why we took arms was to put democracy back on track in our country and that is what is happening today," he said.
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