- Weah calls for Boakai to compromise and urges his supporters to accept the outcome
- The concessions represent a victory for democracy in West Africa
- Boakai faces significant national challenges amid high poverty rates
MONROVIA (Reuters) – Liberian President George Weah on Friday conceded election defeat to opposition leader Joseph Boakai after a close race, ending a presidency marred by corruption allegations but helping to ensure a smooth transition of power in the once-troubled African nation.
The country’s electoral commission said on Friday that Boakai, 78, the former vice president who lost to Weah in the 2017 elections, received 50.9% of the votes compared to 49.1% that Weah received, after almost all the votes were counted.
The result represents a stark turnaround from 2017, when global soccer legend Weah, buoyed by a wave of hope, beat Bukai with 62 percent of the vote. Since then, many have been disappointed by the lack of progress: poverty, unemployment, food insecurity and poor electricity supplies persist.
“Moments ago, I spoke with President-elect Joseph Boakai to congratulate him on his victory,” Weah told national radio. “I urge you to follow my example and accept the election results.”
Weah’s abdication paves the way for Liberia’s second democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades – the first being when Weah came to power six years ago.
His comments were prominent in West and Central Africa, where eight military coups occurred in three years, eroding confidence in democratic elections. When elections are held in the region, accusations of fraud abound and the results are often challenged in court.
Instead, Boakai’s supporters in the capital, Monrovia, danced, chanted and honked car horns in the rain after the semi-final results were announced.
“We have a job to do and I am happy that the citizens approved of us,” Boakai told Reuters shortly after the results were announced. “First and foremost, we want to have a message of peace and reconciliation.”
Boakai, a soft-spoken career politician, ran against Weah in the first round of voting in October, but fell short of the 50% needed to secure an outright victory, leading to a runoff on Tuesday.
Liberia is struggling to recover from two civil wars that killed more than 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003, and from the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic that killed thousands.
Many felt that Weah did not follow through on his promises to alleviate poverty and improve the country’s dilapidated infrastructure.
Arkoye Sarkore, 43, told Reuters that she supports Boakai because she was unable to get a job during Weah’s term.
“I am very optimistic because I know that Boakai… is a man of principles and I know that when he gets here he will bring about changes,” she said. He added: “Some of the things that weren’t done, that weren’t right, he will put them in place, I hope so.”
Preparing by Karel Du and Alfonso Tueh Reporting Writing by Edward McAllister and Anaette Meridzanian. Edited by Louise Heavens, Jonathan Oatis, and Cynthia Osterman
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