Ex-football star George Weah likely to emerge Liberian President
Figures from the National Elections Commission (NEC) put Mr Weah ahead in 11 out of 15 counties, although most votes have yet to be counted.
His main rival, incumbent Vice-President Joseph Boakai, leads in one county and is second in most others.
A candidate needs more than 50% of the votes for outright victory.
If no-one achieves that, a second round will be held in November.
The election is to choose a successor to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Africa's first elected female president and a Nobel Peace laureate.
As the results came in, the manager of Arsenal Football Club, Arsene Wenger, was apparently duped by false reports that Mr Weah had won.
"I would like to congratulate one of my former players, who became president of Liberia," Mr Wenger told reporters.
"It's not often you have a former player who becomes president of a country. So well done, Georgie.