Liberia elected former football star George Weah as its president in a historic vote whose results were declared yesterday. After two days of speculation in which he had been prematurely declared the winner of the election, the nation’s National Electoral Commission eventually declared him the winner on Thursday. George Weah won with 720,023 votes, about 61.5 percent of 98 percent of the votes cast at the elections on Tuesday.
‘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,” Weah tweeted soon after the announcement. The 51 year old will replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president whose deputy, Joseph Bokai was defeated at the elections. George Weah won the first round of elections in October, but didn’t garner the required 50 percent of votes to be declared winner. Bokai was second. The re-run election eventually held on Boxing Day after it was delayed due to complaints about election fraud and irregularities.
The George Weah story is a rags to riches story; he grew up in one of Liberia’s slums, played for some of the biggest European football teams, won the best Footballer of the year award in 1995, he is also the only African to do so till today, and he is now the president of Liberia. However, he first sought to become president in 2005, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has been president for two terms now. He is then alleged to have returned to school, earning a bachelor’s degree in Business administration, and a Masters in Public Administration. He was elected as a senator in 2014, and is now the president elect of the country.
There was rejoicing and celebration on the streets of Liberia yesterday as the news of Weah’s victory filtered in. However, the blot on this win would be his running mate; Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of Liberia’s notorious dictator and former Liberian president Charles Taylor who is in prison in the UK for various war crimes committed during the Liberian civil war. Miss Howard-Taylor who also serves as a Senator in Liberia’s parliament has generated controversy because of her links to her ex-husband, and also statements regarding resurrecting her ex-husband’s former political party.There have also been rumours of Weah receiving calls from the former dictator, with most suggesting he is receiving orders from the man incarcerated in a british prison.
The challenges facing the new president in Liberia will include fighting corruption, which many in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s cabinet have been accused of, reducing poverty in a country where more than 64 percent of the people live on less than $1.50, improving the country’s infrastructures decimated by the decade-long civil war, a low agricultural production which many of its export goods depend on, improving the country’s health system which an Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016 almost rendered obsolete, among other issues.