Ex-footballer Weah wins Liberia presidential vote

Former football superstar George Weah won Liberia’s presidential run-off beating Vice President Joseph Boakai in the first democratic transfer of power in decades after two civil wars.

Weah will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president next month. Sirleaf was Africa’s first elected female head of state and in 2011 she was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The National Election Commission said Weah won an insurmountable 61.5% of Tuesday’s run-off. With 98.1% of votes counted, Boakai could secure only 38.5% votes.

Weah thanked people and said he was aware of the challenges lying ahead. He assured voters that the new government will bring in changes.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the “peaceful conduct” of the second round vote.

Inspiring story

The 51-year-old Weah starred for top European football teams Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Chelsea. He is the only African ever to win FIFA’s World Player of the Year.

But politics is a different ball game. As a novice, he lost to Sirleaf in the second round of voting in the 2005 election. He also lost a bid for vice presidency in 2011. He was elected to Liberia’s senate in December 2014.

His rise to fame from a slum in Monrovia has inspired young Liberians who feel he understands what the country needs.

Weah has promised them better roads, more jobs and rapid economic growth. They expect him to wipe corruption and poverty.

But critics have already questioned his choice of vice president, Jewel Howard Taylor, former wife of convicted war criminal Charles Taylor.

Weah, who has scored many goals during his soccer career, is now facing the goal of leading the oldest African republic founded in 1847 to the path of progress and growth.