Liberian leader and football legend George Weah conceded defeat to opposition leader Joseph Boakai after a tight runoff, saying it was “time to put national interest ahead of personal interest.”
The most recent and almost complete results show Boakai in the lead with almost 51 percent of the vote. Liberiathe oldest republic in Africa founded by freed American slaves.
“The results announced this evening, even if they are not final, indicate that… Boakai is in a lead that we cannot exceed,” Yeah said Friday evening on national radio in a speech.
He said his party, the CDC, “lost the elections but Liberia won,” adding: “This is the time to show kindness in defeat.”
Boakai, 78, lost by a wide margin to Weah, 57, in the second round of the 2017 presidential election.
With more than 99.5 percent of polling stations reporting voting results after Tuesday’s runoff, Boakai received 50.89 percent of the votes cast, according to 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’s national lead of just 7,126 votes.
The election of Weah — the first African footballer to win both the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or — had raised high hopes for change in Liberia, which is still reeling from civil wars and subsequent wars. 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic.
But critics have accused his government of corruption and failing to deliver on its promise to improve the lives of the poorest.
The United States congratulated “President-elect Boakai for his victory and President Weah for his peaceful acceptance of the results.”
“We call on all citizens to follow President Weah’s lead and accept the results,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
“The Liberian people have spoken”
Weah said he spoke to Boakai “to congratulate him on his victory.”
“The Liberian people have spoken and we have heard their voices. 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 united nation and people.”
Weah, who remains president until the handover of power in January, pledged to “continue working for the good of Liberia.”
This will be the second peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another in two decades.
The elections were the first since the United Nations ended its peacekeeping mission in 2018, created after the deaths of more than 250,000 people in Liberia’s two civil wars between 1989 and 2003.
International observers, including the European Union, have praised Liberia for holding peaceful elections.
Regional bloc ECOWASThe Economic Community of West African States said the poll was “largely” peaceful, but noted isolated incidents that led to “injuries and hospitalizations” in four provinces.
Clashes during the campaign left several dead before the first round and raised fears of post-election violence.
About 2.4 million Liberians were eligible to vote Tuesday and turnout was about 66 percent, according to the electoral commission’s website.
Boakai is a veteran of politics, having served as vice president to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africafirst woman elected head of state of the country, from 2006 to 2018.
Liberia has around five million inhabitants and is one of the poorest countries in the world.
More than a fifth of the population lives on less than $2.15 a day, according to the World Bank.