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Jakarta Post

George Weah wins landmark Liberia presidential poll

  • Philippe Siuberski

    Agence France-Presse

Monrovia, Liberia   /   Fri, December 29, 2017   /   11:46 am
George Weah wins landmark Liberia presidential poll Liberian presidential candidate and ex-football international George Weah (R) speaks flanked by his wife Clar (left) outside their house in Monrovia on December 23, 2017. The runoff in Liberia's presidential elections will be held on December 26, clearing a last hurdle in a protracted saga. (Agence France-Presse/Seyllou)

Former star footballer George Weah was named winner of Liberia's presidential election on Thursday, easily beating his challenger in the country's first democratic transfer of power in seven decades scarred by civil wars, political assassinations and an Ebola crisis.

With almost all ballots counted, National Election Commission President Jerome Korkoya said final results would be released on Friday, but Weah wasted no time in acknowledging his win.

"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," he posted on Twitter.

Hundreds of his supporters took to the streets of Monrovia, singing, dancing and embracing each other as news of his victory spread.

"I've never been so happy in all my life. We were in opposition for 12 years. We're going to make history, like the children of South Africa did. I'm so excited," said Josephine Davies, vice president of the youth wing of Weah's Congress for Democratic Change.

"We've waited 12 years, now power is going to the people."

Weah, 51, is set to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over in 2006 at the helm of the west African state founded for freed slaves.

The NEC said Weah won 61.5 percent of Tuesday's run-off vote, which was delayed several weeks after a legal challenge from his opponent, Vice President Joseph Boakai, following October's first round.

The NEC said that with 98.1 percent of all votes counted, Boakai had only secured 38.5 percent support.

Ahead of Thursday's result announcement, armed and helmeted police deployed outside the poll body's headquarters as Weah supporters gathered and began 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.

Sirleaf's office said it had set up a team "for the proper management and orderly transfer of executive power from one democratically elected president to another", adding that it included several ministers.