George Weah Elected Liberian President
Former football star George Weah has been elected as Liberia’s president.
With nearly all ballots from Tuesday’s run-off vote counted, Mr Weah is well ahead of opponent Joseph Boakai with more than 60% of the vote.
As news of Mr Weah’s victory emerged, his supporters began celebrating in the capital Monrovia.
He will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, in Liberia’s first democratic handover in decades.
“My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation,” Mr Weah wrote on Twitter after the results were announced.
“I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on.”
Who is George Weah?
Mr Weah starred at top-flight European football clubs Paris St-Germain (PSG) and AC Milan, before ending his career in England with brief stays at Chelsea and Manchester City.
He is the only African footballer to have won both Fifa World Player of the Year and the prestigious Ballon D’Or.
He entered politics after his retirement from the game in 2002 and is currently a senator in Liberia’s parliament.
His former club, PSG, congratulated him on Twitter.
How did we get here?
Liberia, founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power from one elected president to another since 1944.
Mrs Sirleaf defeated Mr Weah in the presidential election run-off in 2005 and took office a year later, after the end of a brutal civil war that saw President Charles Taylor forced out by rebels. Taylor is now serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
This time Mr Weah’s campaign – under the Coalition for Democratic Change banner – appealed to the youth vote, while incumbent Vice-President Boakai was seen as old and out of touch.
But Mr Weah’s election is not without controversy, as his running mate was Jewel Taylor, former wife of the jailed president.
Why a run-off?
Mr Weah, 51, won the first round of the presidential election in October with 38.4% of the vote, compared with the 28.8% won by second-placed Mr Boakai, 73. The failure of any candidate to secure an outright majority forced the run-off.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) said on Thursday that with 98.1% of the run-off vote counted, Mr Weah had won 61.5% of the vote while Mr Boakai was far behind with 38.5%.
Legal challenges delayed the vote to replace Ms Sirleaf, and turnout was low – put at 56% by election officials.
But election observers have praised the conduct of the poll.
More than two million people were eligible to cast their ballots in the nation of 4.6 million people.