George Weah

George Weah wins Liberian presidential election

Former professional footballer George Weah has won the Liberia presidential run-off, according to officials.

The country’s electoral commission said the ex-AC Milan, Chelsea and Manchester City striker had taken 61.5% of the vote from 98.1% of ballots cast. He beat Vice President Joseph Boakai, who took 38.5% of the vote.

Mr Weah, 51, won the first round in October with 38.4% of the vote, compared with the 28.8% of Mr Boakai, 73. This triggered the run-off as neither made it past the 50% needed for an outright win. But the full result is not expected until Friday, and neither candidate has made a public comment yet. Of the countries’ 15 regions, four are yet to release the results.

If it follows as expected, it means Mr Weah will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to become president next month, the country’s first democratic transition since 1944 and Africa’s first elected female president. She defeated Mr Weah in the presidential election run-off in 2005, after the end of a brutal civil war.

Before the official results were announced, Mr Weah tweeted:

The Liberian people clearly made their choice… and all together we are very confident in the result of the electoral process.

The process had been delayed by several weeks after a legal challenge by Mr Boakai. Armed police were stationed outside the polling body’s headquarters on Thursday, as some of Mr Weah’s supporters started their celebrations.

Mr Weah, 51, grew up in poverty in Liberia. He was raised by his grandmother in one of the worst slums of Liberia’s capital Monrovia, but he went on to have a glittering football career in the 1990s. He played for a number of different teams in Africa before being transferred to Monaco where he was coached by Arsene Wenger.

He also played for Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea and Man City. He is the first and only African player to have won both FIFA’s World Player of the Year trophy and the Ballon d’Or. This is the second time he has run for the presidency in Liberia, the first being in 2005.

He formed the Congress for Democratic Change but was defeated by the current president. Then in 2011 he came second as a vice presidential candidate.  He is currently senator for Montserrado County in Liberia after being elected in 2014.

Liberia, founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century, has not had a smooth transfer of power from one elected president to another in more than 70 years. Legal challenges delayed the vote to replace Ms Sirleaf, and turnout seemed to have been low.

More than two million people were eligible to cast their ballots in the nation of 4.6 million people. Ms Sirleaf took office in 2006, after her predecessor, Charles Taylor, was forced out by rebels in 2003, ending a long civil war. Taylor is serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

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