Former Soccer Star Weah Wins Liberian Presidential Runoff

More stories by Festus Poquie

December 29, 2017, 6:32 AM GMT+1

Retired soccer star George Weah became Liberia’s president, winning a clear majority from voters in the West African nation.

The 1995 world player of the year got 61.5 percent of votes in the second round that took place Tuesday, National Elections Committee Chairman Jerome Korkoya told reporters Thursday in the capital, Monrovia. He beat Vice President Joseph Boakai, 73. They were battling to succeed Harvard-educated former banker Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who’s due to step down in January. Commonly known as Ma Ellen, Johnson Sirleaf defeated Weah in two previous elections.

Initially set for Nov. 7, the final round of voting was delayed after two candidates, including Boakai, asked the Supreme Court to look into allegations of fraud in the first round held on Oct. 10. The court dismissed the accusations.

Weah has pledged to fight corruption and bring “change.” He’s promised to create jobs in a country where more than half of the population is under 35, and to pursue a more open style of leadership than that of career politicians such as Boakai and Johnson Sirleaf.

When Weah, 51, first declared his intention to run for president in 2005, opponents derided his lack of education and political inexperience. A high-school dropout who grew up in an impoverished neighborhood of Monrovia before playing soccer for professional teams in Italy and England, he wielded his rags-to-riches story as one of his key credentials, drawing thousands of soccer lovers to the green Hummer that became his trademark on the campaign trail.

Boakai accepts the result, he told reporters in Monrovia Friday.

“My love for country is more profound than my desire for the presidency,” he said. “My name will not be used to drop innocent blood.”