Ex-football superstar George Weah has been announced as the winner of Liberia’s presidential run-off, beating Vice President Joseph Boakai in the first democratic transfer of power in decades following two devastating civil wars.
Weah is set to replace incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over at the helm of Africa’s oldest republic in 2006.
The National Election Commission (NEC) said Weah had won an insurmountable 61.5 percent of Tuesday’s vote, which was delayed several weeks after a legal challenge from Boakai.
The NEC said that with 98.1 percent of all votes counted, Boakai had only secured 38.5 percent support.
NEC President Jerome Korkoya told reporters that definitive results would be released Friday.
But Weah wasted no time in acknowledging the win, posting on Twitter: “My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation. I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on.”
Ahead of Thursday’s results, armed and helmeted police deployed outside the poll body’s headquarters and some of Weah’s supporters were already rejoicing.
“The Liberian people clearly made their choice… and all together we are very confident in the result of the electoral process,” tweeted Weah before the official results were announced.
Weah topped the first round of voting in October with 38.4 percent of ballots but failed to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a run-off. Boakai came second with 28.8 percent.
The election passed without a single major incident of violence despite weeks of delays caused by legal challenges and Liberians said they were looking forward to a peaceful handover after 12 years under Sirleaf.
“Since years of civil war this is the first time we see the transition of power from one person to another,” voter Oscar Sorbah told AFP.
The Sirleaf administration, elected in 2005, guided the nation out of the ruins of war and through the horrors of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, but is accused of failing to combat poverty and corruption.
“We’ve waited 12 years, now power is going to the people,” CDC vice president of the CDC’s youth wing Josephine Davies said after Weah’s win.