- Mr Weah asks Mr Boakai to make concessions and urges supporters to accept outcome
- Concessions mean victory for democracy in West Africa
- Boakai Island faces major national challenges amid high poverty rates
MONROVIA, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Liberian President George Weah on Friday conceded his loss to opposition leader Joseph Boakai in a close election, ending a presidency marred by corruption allegations. He helped ensure a smooth transition of power in the once unstable African country.
The country’s electoral commission said on Friday that nearly all votes had been counted, with former vice president Boakai, 78, who lost to Weah in the 2017 election, leading with 50.9% of the vote to Weah’s 49.1%. announced.
The result marked a dramatic reversal from 2017, when world soccer legend Weah, buoyed by a wave of hope, defeated Boakai with 62% of the vote. Since then, many have become disillusioned with the lack of progress, with poverty, unemployment, food insecurity and electricity shortages continuing.
“A short time ago I spoke to President-elect Joseph Boakai and congratulated him on his victory,” Weah said on national radio. “I urge you to follow my example and accept the election results.”
Weah’s concession paves the way for Liberia’s second democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years, the first being when Weah came to power six years ago.
His comments were notable in West and Central Africa, where eight military coups in three years have undermined confidence in democratic elections. Elections in the region are met with accusations of fraud, and the results are frequently challenged in court.
Instead, Boakai supporters in the capital Monrovia danced, shouted and honked their car horns in the rain after the near-final results were announced.
“We have a job to do and I’m thrilled that the people have recognized us,” Boakai told Reuters shortly after the results were announced. “First and foremost, we want to convey a message of peace and reconciliation.”
Mr Boakai, a soft-spoken politician, finished neck-and-neck with Mr Weah in the first round of voting in October, but his vote share fell below the 50% needed for an outright victory, leading to a run-off on Tuesday. It was a vote.
Liberia is struggling to recover from two civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that killed more than 250,000 people, and from the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak that killed thousands.
Many felt that Mr. Weah had not fulfilled his promises to alleviate poverty and improve the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
Alkoy Sarkoor, 43, told Reuters he supported Mr. Boakai because he had been unable to find a job during Mr. Weah’s term.
“I’m very hopeful, because I know that Boakai is…a man of principles. And I know that when he gets here, he’s going to make a difference.” she said. “There are some things that weren’t done, some things weren’t right, but he’ll correct them appropriately. I’m counting on that.”
Report on Kariel Dou and Alfonso Towe. Written by Edward McAllister and Anit Mirijanian.Editing: Louise Heavens, Jonathan Otis, Cynthia Osterman
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