Liberians have voted to elect a new president and legislators in an election that will see the country’s first transfer of power from one democratically elected leader to another in more than 70 years.
Provincial results were expected within 48 hours, but the electoral body has until October 25 to issue its final confirmation of the results and to announce a runoff if necessary for the presidency.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the continent’s first female president, is leaving power after serving 12 years in office – the maximum allowed under the West African country’s constitution.
Polls closed at 6pm local time (18:00 GMT) on Tuesday. Twenty candidates, including the current vice president, former world footballer of the year and a model, are running for the country’s top seat – with 2.2 million voters registered in the small country of 4.6 million people.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the Liberian capital Monrovia, said voting started smoothly.
“People began queuing up since 5:30am. They were very eager to cast their votes. A lot of passion and interest has been paid to this election,” he said.
For a candidate to be declared a winner, they must get at least 50 percent of the votes cast, plus one.
If there is no clear favourite, a second round of voting is likely.
Liberians were also to elect 73 members of the upper house, or House of Representatives.
The upper house uses a first-past-the-post system, where the representative with the highest number of votes is elected.
No senators [lower house] will be elected this year.
President Sirleaf, 78, urged Liberians on Monday to respect the outcome of the hotly contested election regardless of who wins.
Liberia, Africa’s first republic, came out of a brutal 14-year civil war which left an estimated 250,000 million people dead in 2003.