Ex-football superstar concedes Liberian election defeat
Liberian President George Weah has conceded defeat to his rival Joseph Nyumah Boakai following a tight contest in the second round of voting in the presidential elections.
The move by Weah, a former international football star, on Friday has been hailed as a historic example for democracy and a source of relief for Liberia. The country has been scarred by a brutal history of civil war, and the West African region has experienced political upheavals and coups in recent years.
President Weah obtained 49.11% of the vote in the November 14 runoff, while opposition leader Boakai received 50.9%, according to results from 99.58% of polling stations, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced on Friday.
In a speech broadcast on national radio following the NEC announcement, the African country’s leader said he had spoken with “President-elect” Boakai to congratulate him on his victory.
“This is a time for graciousness in defeat, a time to place our country above party, and patriotism above personal interest,” Weah said, while expressing his “sincere commitment to working” with Boakai for the “betterment” of Liberia.
“The closeness of the results reveals a deep division within our country. As we transition to the new Boakai administration, we must be vigilant to the dangers of division and work together to find common ground,” he added.
Weah’s acceptance of defeat sets the stage for the West African state’s second peaceful transfer of power in more than 70 years, the first of which occurred when he was elected in a landslide victory six years ago.
The former footballer-turned-politician was elected as president in 2017 during Liberia’s first democratic transition of government in seven decades, gaining 60% of the vote in the second round against the former vice president, the same Joseph Boakai. The African country had endured two devastating civil wars between 1989 and 2003, which killed 25,000 people, as well as a deadly Ebola outbreak in 2016.
Weah's presidency has been marred by allegations of corruption, with critics, including his opponent, accusing him of failing to fulfill key campaign promises and leading Liberia into economic hardship.
Boakai, who was vice president under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female elected head of state, from 2006 to 2018, committed to fulfilling his promises during a church service in the nation’s capital of Monrovia on Sunday.
“This is what I am telling this congregation and the entire nation that this is what I am called to do, and I will do it. For your care and prayers, I want to assure you that the next few years will be a period of fulfillment and not hope anymore,” he said, according to the Liberian Observer newspaper.
Boakai had pledged during his campaign to form a government that truly represents Liberia’s political, social, and religious diversity if elected president.