Former International footballer star, George Weah, has been was named winner of Liberia’s presidential (Run-Off) election on Thursday, beating his challenger in the country’s first landmark democratic transfer of presidential power in seven decades in the West African new beacon of hope state since the end of two civil wars, political assassinations and a destructive Ebola crisis.
Former ‘World Footballer’ coveted Ballon D’Or football award winner, George Weah, defeated Vice President Joseph Boakai to win with 61.5 percent of the vote, based on 98.1 percent of ballots cast, from 56% turnout for the second round vote, the election commission said.
With almost all ballots counted, National Election Commission President Jerome Korkoya said final results would be released on Friday, but Weah wasted no time in acknowledging his win.
“My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of the entire nation. I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on,” he posted on Twitter.
And immediately, hundreds of his supporters took to the streets of Monrovia, singing, dancing and embracing each other as news of his victory spread.
Weah will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s president next month; Sirleaf became Africa’s first elected female head of state and in 2011 was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Weah, 51, led the first round of voting on October 10, but he failed to get the requisite 50 percent of votes to win. With this win, he’s set to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over in 2006 at the helm of the West African state founded for freed slaves.
Observers hailed a credible election held without a single major incident of violence, despite weeks of delays caused by legal challenges backed by Boakai’s Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round. Many of the complaints appeared to have been addressed in the second round.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the “peaceful conduct” of the second round vote, commending in a statement “the government, political parties and the people of Liberia for the orderly poll.”
“I’ve never been so happy in all my life. We were in opposition for 12 years. We’re going to make history, like the children of South Africa did. I’m so excited,” said Josephine Davies, vice president of the youth wing of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change.
“We’ve waited 12 years, now power is going to the people.”
The presidential run-off election was delayed for seven weeks due to legal challenges lodged by Boakai’s Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round; hence the need to address most of the challenges before the electoral commission could proceed for the second round elections.
President Sirleaf’s office has announced that, it had set up a team “for the proper management and orderly transfer of executive power from one democratically elected president to another” with several ministers included in the team.
Liberia, founded in 1847 by freed US and Caribbean slaves, is the oldest African republic that witnessed back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 with two assassinated presidents and an estimated quarter of a million people dead from the civil wars.
President-elect, George Weah who played for top European football teams Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Chelsea, first ran for Liberian presidency and lost to Sirleaf in the second round of voting in the 2005 election.
He also lost a bid for vice presidency in 2011; however, was elected to Liberia’s senate in December 2014. He was similarly frustrated when he ran for vice-president in 2011, but his CDC party repeatedly urged its young and exuberant supporters to keep calm.
Young Liberians sees Weah’s rise from the slums of Monrovia to achieve his many successes against all odds as an inspiration they can relate to and thus feels that Weah understands what the country needs to meet their respective needs.