Ex-soccer star Weah elected Liberia president by wide margin

Supporters of former soccer player George Weah, Presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change, celebrate, in Monrovia, Liberia, Friday Dec. 29, 2017. The National Election Commission has declared George Weah president-elect and Jewel Howard-Taylor vice president-elect following the Dec. 26 runoff poll. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)



Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia — Former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah has been elected Liberia’s new president by a wide margin as the West African nation faces its first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.

Vice President Joseph Boakai conceded on Friday, congratulating the ex-soccer star.

The National Election Commission later declared Weah president-elect and his running mate Jewel Howard-Taylor vice president-elect.

Their Coalition for Democratic Change party received 61.5 percent of the final tally, beating Vice President Boakai’s Unity Party which got 38.5 percent of the votes, NEC chairman Jerome Korkoya said.

Supporters at Weah’s party headquarters immediately erupted into celebrations that brought traffic outside to a complete standstill.

Africa’s first female president, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is stepping aside after two terms at the head of the nation founded by freed American slaves. She led the country from back-to-back civil wars and saw it through a deadly Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians but was criticized for not better tackling corruption.

In his first public comments after his rival conceded, Weah said he was “honored to join a new generation of heads of state.”

Tweeting in French in response to congratulations from French President Emmanuel Macron, he added that “we have a lot to do together to accelerate the building of tomorrow’s Africa.”

The 51-year-old Weah, a senator who entered politics after retirement from soccer more than a decade ago, led the first-round vote in October but didn’t receive enough ballots to win outright over the 73-year-old Boakai, who has been vice president for 12 years.