By Harrison Arubu/Monrovia
Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC) on Friday formally declared international football icon, George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), as President-elect of Liberia.
Chairman of the commission, Mr Jerome Korkoya, made the declaration after announcing the final results of the Dec. 26 presidential runoff election at the NEC headquarters in Monrovia.
The final tallies indicate that Weah of CDC polled a total of 722,185 votes representing 61.5 per cent, while Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party (UP) finished with 457,579 or 28.5 per cent.
“Final results stand at the CDC, 722,185 votes representing 61.5 per cent; the Unity Party, 457,579 representing 28.5 per cent.
“Pursuant to the authority vested in the commission by the constitution and the new electoral law of the Republic of Liberia and based on the result just read, I, acting on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, do hereby declare the presidential ticket of Senator George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor as the winner of the Dec. 26 presidential runoff election.”
With this, Weah will serve as the 25th president of Liberia with effect from the third working Monday of January 2018.
The president-elect, who is an international sporting hero, defeated 21 other presidential candidates in the Oct. 10 general elections with 38.4 per cent of the total votes cast.
But he fell short of the 50 per cent plus one vote required for victory in the first round, thus paving the way for a runoff with Boakai, who came second with 28.8 per cent.
However, legal challenges launched by opposition figure and third-place finisher in the first round, Mr Charles Brumskine, delayed the runoff for seven weeks.
The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling on Dec. 7, dismissed Brumskine’s complaints for want of sufficient evidence to warrant a rerun as demanded and lifted its stay order on the runoff.
Weah, 51, is widely regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time, winning the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995.
He played for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s before moving to England late in his career for stints at Chelsea and Manchester City.
Weah was raised 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 commands a large following.
His journey to the presidency has been long and tortuous. He lost to Johnson-Sirleaf, the first female elected Head of State in Africa, in a runoff in 2005.
Six years later, he lost again as vice presidential running mate to William Tubman in 2011.
On Dec. 20, 2014, Weah was overwhelmingly elected to the Liberian Senate to represent Montserrado County on the platform of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
He defeated Robert Sirleaf, son of President Sirleaf, making him the first Liberian international athlete to be elected to represent a county in the Legislature.
Meanwhile, some Liberians believe Weah lacks the intellectual capability to effectively run the country, citing his alleged polarisation of the Liberian national team while he was coach.