Six out of 10 back Weah as Liberia’s new pres­i­dent

The Guardian Weekly - - International news - Ruth Ma­clean Daniel Nyakonah

The for­mer foot­ball star Ge­orge Weah has won Liberia’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, de­feat­ing the vice-pres­i­dent, Joseph Boakai, in a runoff with 61.5% of the vote.

Last Thursday’s an­nounce­ment by the coun­try’s elec­tion com­mis­sion chair, Jerome Korkoyah, means Weah, pic­tured right, will suc­ceed Ellen John­son Sir­leaf as Liberia’s pres­i­dent next month, after an elec­tion fraught with ac­cu­sa­tions of fraud. It will be the coun­try’s first demo­cratic tran­si­tion since 1944 and fol­lows two devastating civil wars.

Spon­ta­neous cel­e­bra­tions erupted in the cap­i­tal, Mon­rovia, a Weah strong­hold. Sup­port­ers danced, clapped and sang “Olé, olé, olé” out­side the elec­toral com­mis­sion’s of- fices as the re­sults were read out.

Weah, a na­tional sport­ing hero, topped the first round of vot­ing in Oc­to­ber with 38.4% but failed to win the 50% nec­es­sary to avoid a runoff. Boakai came sec­ond with 28.8%. The r runoff was de­layed twice after sev­eral par­ties took their alle al­le­ga­tions of mal­prac­tice to the supreme court, but it fi­nal nally took place with a low turn turnout on 26 De­cem­ber. W Weah, 51, is the only African to be Fifa’s world player of the year yea or to have won the Bal­lon d’Or for Eu­rope’s best player. At the time, Nel­son Man­dela called him the “pride of Africa”. His was al­ready an in­spi­ra­tional story to a gen­er­a­tion of Africans: he grew up 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 has a large fan­base. Many see his be­com­ing pres­i­dent as a fit­ting next chap­ter in the rags-to-riches fairy­tale and one that gives them hope.

“With Ge­orge, he will em­power the youth, the women, and will de­velop the coun­try,” said one sup­porter.

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