Liberian President and football legend George Weah concedes after nearly complete results show opposition leader Joseph Boakai leading with nearly 51% of the run-off ballots.
“The results announced tonight, though not final, indicate that… Boakai is in a lead that we cannot surpass,” Weah said in a speech on national radio.
The “CDC (party) has lost the election, but Liberia has won. This is the time for graciousness in defeat, to put national interest above personal interest,” he said.
Former vice president Boakai is expected to win the presidential vote, which would be a sweet revenge for the 78-year-old, who lost to Weah by a significant margin in the second-round presidential vote in 2017. After Tuesday’s second-round vote, Boakai garnered 50.89% of ballots cast, with Weah on 49.11%, according to official results released by the electoral commission. Boakai was 28,000 votes ahead of Weah according to Friday’s figures. The two men finished neck-and-neck in the first-round last month, with Weah leading by just 7,126 votes nationally.
The United States extended its congratulations to “president-elect Boakai on his victory and President Weah for his peaceful acceptance of the results”.
“We call on all citizens to follow President Weah’s example and accept the results,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
Weah said he had spoken to Boakai “to congratulate him on his victory”.
“The Liberian people have spoken, and we have heard their voice. However, the closeness of the results reveals a deep division within our country,” Weah said in his speech.
“Let us heal the divisions caused by the campaign and come together as one nation and one united people.”
Liberia held its first election since the United Nations ended its peacekeeping mission in 2018, which was created after two civil wars claimed the lives of over 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. International observers, including the European Union, praised the peaceful nature of the election.
However, Ecowas, a regional bloc, stated that although the election was “largely” peaceful, there were some isolated incidents in four provinces that led to “injuries and hospitalizations.” There were also concerns about post-election violence after campaign clashes left several people dead before the first round.
There are no official figures on the number of people who turned out to vote, but approximately 2.4 million Liberians were eligible to participate. George Weah won the presidency six years ago, but this time, Joseph Boakai, a veteran politician who served as vice president to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, from 2006 to 2018, emerged as the winner.
Boakai is set to lead Liberia, a country of around five million people, for six years. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than a fifth of its population living on less than $2.15 a day, according to the World Bank. Boakai formed alliances with local barons, including former warlord and senator Prince Johnson, who supported Weah six years ago. Following Boakai’s victory, dozens of his supporters celebrated outside one of his party’s offices in the capital, Monrovia.