Political campaigns in Liberia officially closed at midnight (1 a.m. Nigerian time) on Monday ahead of the country’s crucial presidential and House of Representatives elections billed for Tuesday.

The West African country heads to the polls with 20 candidates in the race for the top job, as incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf prepares to step down after two terms in office.

This would be the first time for the transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another in the country since 1944.

Most of the candidates headed to various churches for prayers on the last day of campaigns.

After service, some of the candidates and their supporters hit major roads and streets on a last-minute push to sway voters.

Johnson-Sirleaf’s aspiring successors include her two-term Vice President, Joseph Boakai; football icon, George Weah; prominent businessman, Mr Alexander Cummings and veteran opposition figure, Mr Charles Brumskine.

Also in the race is Prince Johnson, a former warlord and key player in the First Liberian Civil War between 1989 until 1997.

Ms MacDella Cooper, a philanthropist and founder of the MacDella Cooper Foundation, which is devoted to improving the lives of children and women in Liberia, is the only female presidential candidate.

Many political observers believe the election is a two-horse race between Vice President Boakai and George Weah, who lost to Sirleaf in a run-off in the 2005 presidential polls.

Cummings, a former Executive Vice President of Coca-Cola, who joined the race 18 months ago, is reported to have become a big force with his door-to-door campaign strategy.

The major issues in this election are sustainability of peace and stability, corruption, infrastructure and economic development.

Johnson-Sirleaf is lauded by many here for restoring and sustaining peace in a country ravaged by two civil wars spanning 14 years.

Her government has also improved the country’s collapsed infrastructure, including the hydroelectricity dam and roads, in addition to pushing for investment in the economy.

But those achievements are challenged by allegations of corruption and nepotism by her critics.