Provisional election results released on Thursday by the National Election Commission indicated that ex-football superstar, George Weah, emerged winner of Liberia presidential run-off, beating Vice-President Joseph Boakai.
Weah is set to replace incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over at the helm of Africa’s oldest republic in 2006.
The NEC said Weah had won an insurmountable 61.5 per cent of Tuesday’s vote, which was delayed several weeks after a legal challenge from Boakai, AFP reports.
The commission added that with 98.1 per cent of all votes counted, Boakai had only secured 38.5 per cent support.
Ahead of Thursday’s results, armed and helmeted police deployed outside the poll body’s headquarters and some of Weah’s supporters were already rejoicing.
“The Liberian people clearly made their choice… and all together we are very confident in the result of the electoral process,” Weah tweeted before the official results were announced.
Weah topped the first round of voting in October with 38.4 per cent of ballots but failed to win the 50 per cent necessary to avoid a run-off. Boakai came second with 28.8 per cent.
Weah is the only African ever to have won the FIFA’s World Player of the Year and the coveted Ballon d’Or. The 51-year-old starred at top-flight European football clubs – Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s before playing briefly in England for Chelsea and Manchester City later in his career.
“Is it President Weah?” said the New Dawn newspaper on Thursday, referring to a man who has the backing of heavyweights including former warlord Prince Johnson and apparently the covert support of outgoing President Sirleaf.
Her office said it had set up a team “for the proper management and orderly transfer of executive power from one democratically elected President to another.”
Meanwhile, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has congratulated Weah, describing him as someone destined by God to be president.
He said, “I salute George Weah’s courage and resilience in spite of the activities and machinations of oppressors and interlopers who blocked his victory 12 years ago. Because the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo are not God, George Weah has been able to achieve his destiny through the grace and power of God and I wish him a successful tenure.”
The governor, however, described the United Nation’s choice of Obasanjo as a mediator in Liberia as misplaced.
According to him, someone like Obasanjo, who was at the centre of the manipulation of Weah’s electoral victory 12 years ago, should not be the one to mediate now that he (Weah) had secured the victory that he was denied then.
In the wake of the results, congratulatory messages from political leaders had been trickling in. Fayose, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, urged the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission to learn from what happened in Liberia and allow the will of the people to prevail in the 2018 and 2019 elections.
He said, “The emergence of George Weah as Liberia President 12 years after he was short-changed by those who wielded power at that time is a further confirmation that there is no God in man.”
Fayose called on the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to withdraw the nomination of Obasanjo as a mediator in Liberia.
Meanwhile, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who co-led the National Democratic Institute Election Observer group to Liberia and other leaders of the delegation have described the polls as peaceful and orderly.
The National Democratic Institute made this known on Thursday in its preliminary statement issued in Monrovia.
In the statement, the delegation called on the “Liberian political parties and candidates to cooperate in good faith with the National Election Commission and for the results to be expeditiously released.”
Jonathan said, “I am proud of Liberians, who have come from crisis to democracy and have shown themselves to be a model of peace and stability in the region. Democracy goes beyond election day. If Liberia succeeds, West Africa succeeds, Africa succeeds, and the world succeeds.”
Speaking in the same vein, Kosovo’s former President, Atifete Jahjaga, said, “The NDI delegation congratulates the people of Liberia for exercising their right to vote and for making a historic step towards the consolidation of democracy in their country.
“It is my hope that the positive trends that we have observed during this election will be sustained and further improved during future elections.”
The delegation’s preliminary statement provided recommendations to the government of Liberia, the National Election Commission, political parties and candidates, security forces, civil society, the media, the international community, as well as other stakeholders.