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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soccer Player in Liberian Runoff

MONROVIA, Liberia -- Liberians voted Tuesday to choose whether their first postwar president will be a popular millionaire football star who dropped out of high school or a Harvard-trained former finance minister.

A month after a first round election failed to produce an outright winner, former AC Milan striker George Weah and economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf faced off in a runoff to decide who will lead Liberia after a 14-year civil war.

Although Tuesday's initial turnout was not as big as in the first round, when voters swamped polling stations, lines formed outside voting centers in churches and schools among the crumbling, bullet-pocked buildings of the capital, Monrovia.

Other voters trekked on foot to makeshift election centers set up in tents and huts in upcountry jungle areas.

"We Liberians are sick, weary and tired of war. All we hope for is peace, and once we have peace in Liberia all the other things will come," said Sawyeah Torley, 36, a computer company employee voting in Monrovia.

Results are expected to take up to two weeks to trickle in from across the war-ravaged country, with more than 1.3 million voters registered at 3,070 different polling stations.

The runoff pits the celebrity popularity of Weah, 39, a political novice idolized as "King George," against the qualifications and experience of Johnson-Sirleaf, a 66-year-old former World Bank official known as the "Iron Lady."

Whoever wins, the result will make history. Johnson-Sirleaf could become Africa's first elected female president, while a win for Weah would make him the world's first international footballer to become a head of state.

Liberians hope the new president will turn the page on a savage civil war that ended two years ago and left the West African nation's economy in tatters, created a generation of child soldiers and killed a quarter of a million people.

United Nations helicopters patrolled Liberia's skies, and UN peacekeepers, part of a 15,000-strong contingent, kept watch over polling stations.

Voting was generally peaceful. But in Ganta, in the north, Nigerian peacekeepers fired tear gas to break up a disturbance after a fight between two voters in which was one was stabbed.

In the Oct. 11 first round, Weah finished ahead in a field of some 20 candidates, with 28 percent. But he failed to gain the 50 percent plus one vote required to win outright.

Both Weah and Johnson-Sirleaf, who came second with 20 percent in the first round, have promised to smash widespread corruption and restore basic services.

But the election debate has sharply contrasted their respective backgrounds and qualifications.

"Ellen is the best candidate for Liberia. If she can win, then she will educate us and our children," said unemployed 28-year-old Lisa Taylee.

"George Weah is the best president, I think. ... He don't know books, we accept that. But if we put in a person that knows books, we will start war again," said James Teah, 27.

Weah, who owns one of Liberia's main television and radio stations, has attracted support from prominent former warlords such as rebel leader Sekou Conneh, and his supporters claim he alone has the broad support to unify Africa's oldest republic.