Liberia: Ex-soccer star takes lead in Senate race

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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Former soccer star George Weah held a commanding lead over the president's son in the most high-profile contest of Liberia's Senate poll, which was delayed twice because of Ebola.

Originally scheduled for October, the elections were pushed back to Dec. 16 as Liberia struggled to contain the Ebola epidemic, which has killed 3,376 people in the country according to the World Health Organization. Officials then pushed the polls back four more days to Saturday.

Turnout was 27.9 percent, said Jerome Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission, as he read out provisional results Monday night. Results had been tallied from 1,636 of 4,701 polling places across the country.

In the 11-candidate contest for Monrovia's Montserrado County, Weah, FIFA's Player of the Year in 1995, had so far received 79.7 percent of the vote. His rival Robert Sirleaf was running in a distant second in the 11-candidate race with 11.2 percent.

Weah won the first round of Liberia's 2005 presidential race, but he lost the runoff to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2011, he was the vice presidential candidate for his Congress for Democratic Change political party, losing the first round and boycotting the runoff.

Weah's supporters have already begun celebrating his Senate win, though the elections commission has two weeks to release final results.

Christopher Neyor, former president of the National Oil Company and a harsh critic of the current government, is one of two candidates that have conceded defeat to him.

"We must work together to curtail the cancer of corruption in our governance structure and effectively manage the natural resources God has given us to break the chain of abject poverty in our country," Neyor said.

Ebola has killed more people in Liberia than in all the other countries hit by the current outbreak, the worst on record. But the disease is now spreading fastest in Sierra Leone, which has the highest tally of cases.

The number of confirmed, probable and suspected deaths in the three countries most affected — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — now stands at 7,518, the WHO said Monday. The number of cases in those countries is now 19,340.

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