Former football star George Manneh Weah has won Liberia’s presidential runoff election by over 60% of the vote to succeed Africa’s first democratically elected female president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Senator Weah won by 61.5% beating Vice President Joseph Boakai who garnered 38.5% votes out of the 98.1% votes counted, National Elections Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoyah announced on Thursday evening in the capital Monrovia.
He will be sworn in as president in January, marking the country’s first democratic transition in over 70 years. George Weah who led in the first round with 38.4% of the vote could not hold back his tears as hundreds of supporters cheered.
“My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation. I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on,” he said at his party’s headquarters.
He contested the election under the ticket of the Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) with a controversial running mate Jewel Howard-Taylor, who is the former wife of jailed warlord and ex-president of Liberia Charles Taylor.
There was low turnout in Tuesday’s election compared to the first round which recorded 74.52%. The National Elections Commission said only 56% voter turnout was recorded.
George Weah had a successful career as a footballer which started from his country before moving to Europe where he played for Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, Milan, Chelsea and Marseille among others before his retirement in 2003. He also played for the Liberian national team which he coached and funded on various occasions.
Weah has won several international and continental awards including the African Footballer of the Year Award on multiple times. He is the only African footballer to have won both Fifa World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or.
The 51-year-old went into active politics as a candidate in the 2005 presidential election which he lost to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In 2011, he joined the race again as a vice-presidential candidate on the ticket of Winston Tubman but failed. Weah was later elected as a Senator in 2014.
BY ISMAIL AKWEI