His victory is now official. Liberian political veteran Joseph Boakai was declared the winner of the presidential election against incumbent George Weah by the National Election Commission on Monday (November 20th) after ballots were counted from all polling stations.
Joseph Boakai, 78, won with 50.64 percent of the vote, compared to 49.36 percent for George Weah, NEC Commission Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah told reporters.
The newly elected leader is only 20,567 votes ahead of George Weah out of just over 1.6 million voters. George Weah acknowledged his opponent's victory on Friday night in view of near-final results.
However, the chairperson of the commission said that the latter had received two appeals on Friday from George Weah's party against the conduct of the election in the eastern county of Nimba. The commission has 30 days to investigate and make a decision, she said.
"Tonight, the CDC (the Coalition for Democratic Change, his party) lost the election but Liberia won. It's time for elegance in defeat," said the man who was already standing out for his class on the football pitch in a firm voice on the radio.
He extolled "democratic principles" at a time when they are being challenged in the region. He urged his supporters to "follow his example and accept the results".
"Our time will come," Weah, 57, said, while his intentions after the official end of his presidency in January 2024 are not known.
Foreign partners welcomed the conduct of the election, which was "peaceful" for the West African Community as well as the UN and the United States, an important ally of Liberia. They complimented the winner.
A special mention was given to George Weah. "President Weah has shown exemplary statesmanship," Goodluck Jonathan, the former president of Nigeria, who led a mediation mission during the elections, said on X.
"We call on all (Liberian) citizens to follow President Weah's example and accept the results," the U.S. State Department said.
An example for West Africa?
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president of Nigeria, an ECOWAS heavyweight, praised George Weah's "extraordinary leadership" and "democratic sportsmanship" "at a particular moment in West Africa's history when democracy is under assault by evil actors determined to subvert the will of the people".
George Weah has "countered the conventional wisdom that democratic transitions are untenable in West Africa," said Ahmed Tinubu, who was elected in 2023 despite accusations of fraud by his opponents.
Several presidential elections are scheduled for 2024 in West Africa, Senegal, Ghana (ECOWAS members), Mauritania, Côte d'Ivoire and theoretically Mali and Burkina Faso, led by the military.
The African Union (AU) has "congratulated" Joseph Boakai on his election as president of Liberia while paying tribute to incumbent George Weah.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, "congratulates the Liberian President-elect, and commends the outgoing President's sense of statehood after the announcement of the official result of the elections," according to the statement.
It also calls on "all parties to continue to show maturity and engage in dialogue to consolidate democracy".
One of the issues at stake in the election was its peaceful and regular conduct and the acceptance of its result, at a time when democracy in West Africa has been battered in recent years by a succession of coups d'état (Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger).
The election was held 20 years after the end of Liberia's civil wars, which killed more than 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003 and whose memory remains vivid in the country.
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