Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC) on Friday formally declared international football icon, George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), as President-elect of Liberia.
Chairman of the commission, Mr Jerome Korkoya, made the declaration after announcing the final results of the Dec. 26 presidential runoff election at the NEC headquarters in Monrovia.
The final tallies indicate that Weah of CDC polled a total of 722,185 votes representing 61.5 per cent, while Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party (UP) finished with 457,579 or 28.5 per cent.
“Final results stand at the CDC, 722,185 votes representing 61.5 per cent; the Unity Party, 457,579 representing 28.5 per cent.
“Pursuant to the authority vested in the commission by the constitution and the new electoral law of the Republic of Liberia and based on the result just read, I, acting on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, do hereby declare the presidential ticket of Senator George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor as the winner of the Dec. 26 presidential runoff election.”
With this, Weah will serve as the 25th president of Liberia with effect from the third working Monday of January 2018.
The president-elect, who is an international sporting hero, defeated 21 other presidential candidates in the Oct. 10 general elections with 38.4 per cent of the total votes cast.
But he fell short of the 50 per cent plus one vote required for victory in the first round, thus paving the way for a runoff with Boakai, who came second with 28.8 per cent.
However, legal challenges launched by opposition figure and third-place finisher in the first round, Mr Charles Brumskine, delayed the runoff for seven weeks.
The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling on Dec. 7, dismissed Brumskine’s complaints for want of sufficient evidence to warrant a rerun as demanded and lifted its stay order on the runoff.
Weah, 51, is widely regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time, winning the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995.
He played for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s before moving to England late in his career for stints at Chelsea and Manchester City.
Weah was raised in Clara Town, a poor suburb of Monrovia, and played football across the river in West Point, Liberia’s biggest informal settlement, where he still commands a large following.
His journey to the presidency has been long and tortuous. He lost to Johnson-Sirleaf, the first female elected Head of State in Africa, in a runoff in 2005.
Six years later, he lost again as vice presidential running mate to William Tubman in 2011.
On Dec. 20, 2014, Weah was overwhelmingly elected to the Liberian Senate to represent Montserrado County on the platform of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
He defeated Robert Sirleaf, son of President Sirleaf, making him the first Liberian international athlete to be elected to represent a county in the Legislature.
Meanwhile, some Liberians believe Weah lacks the intellectual capability to effectively run the country, citing his alleged polarisation of the Liberian national team while he was coach.
Buhari’s congratulatory message
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has congratulated the Liberian president-elect, George Weah, for his victory.
In a statement from the presidency, Mr. Buhari also congratulated the outgoing Liberian leader, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, for the peaceful conduct of the elections.
On behalf of the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari warmly congratulates George Weah on his election as the next President of the Republic of Liberia. President Buhari also commends the Liberian people on the peaceful conduct of the historic presidential run-off election, stressing that “this is another plus on Africa’s democratic scoreboard.” The President equally applauds the efforts of the National Election Commission of Liberia, as well as regional and international observers who have contributed immensely to the electoral process and the strengthening of post-conflict democracy in the West African country. Describing Mr. Weah’s victory as an affirmation of the will of the Liberian people to remain united, peaceful and prosperous, President Buhari pledged Nigeria’s readiness to work with Liberia on issues of mutual interest at bilateral, regional and global levels for the benefit of citizens of both countries. The Nigerian leader also commends outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, under whose 12-year watch Liberia had transformed from being a pariah state to a country doing remarkably well on many fronts such as, women and civil rights issue, peace building and consolidation, ECOWAS and the Mano River Union. President Buhari also notes that President Sirleaf deserves special commendation for the statesmanship she has shown in ensuring free and fair elections that will pave the way for a peaceful transfer of political power from one democratically elected leader to another for the first time in 73 years. Wishing President-elect Weah and Liberians a peaceful transition, he reassures them of Nigeria’s determination to sustain the current cordial relationship with Liberia.