File photo shows Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaking during the General Debate of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 19, 2017. (Xinhua/Li Rui)
by Olatunji Saliu
MONROVIA, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Polls opened across Liberia on Tuesday to elect a new president to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female president.
The election, anchored by the National Elections Commission in Liberia, will also secure seats for 73 members of the nation's parliament.
A total of 20 presidential candidates are taking part in the election to replace 78-year-old Sirleaf who is about to complete her two-term presidency (with a term length of six years granted by the constitution).
Their fates will be decided by 2.18 million registered voters.
Voting started at 8 a.m. local time, but voters had arrived the polling centers three hours earlier.
Most streets, especially in Monrovia, the Liberian capital city, were empty, while long queues of voters are seen in most of the polling places.
Altogether, 26 political parties are contesting for election at various levels.
The 73 members of the Liberian parliament are elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies, while the president is elected using a two-round system.
Ahead of the polls, Sirleaf urged Liberians to conduct themselves peacefully and respect every Liberian's right to vote with dignity and pride.
"Embrace your neighbors, regardless of their political choice," she said in a national broadcast Monday.
"No one is entitled to your vote, not because of party, ethnicity, religion or tribal affiliation. Your loyalty is to your family, your children, and your children's children, and their children," said the president.
Earlier, all the political parties in Liberia had signed to an accord to maintain peace and order before, during and after the polls.
Sirleaf on Monday called on all Liberians to respect the outcome of the election as declared by the country's electoral body.
She noted the electoral body had established a system that is accountable, transparent and "based on the highest standards available."
Liberia's vice president Joseph Nyumah Boakai, serving under Sirleaf since January 2006, is a major presidential contender running on the ticket of the governing Unity Party.
Another major candidate is George Oppong Weah, a retired professional footballer and a serving senator of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in Liberia.
Local analysts say one of the two aforementioned candidates is likely to win the presidential poll, although there is no clear favorite among all 20 of them.