Thursday December 28 2017

Liberia set to learn result of landmark presidential election

Contestants. Former footballer George Weah and

Contestants. Former footballer George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai. FILE PHOTO 


Liberia on Thursday was set to learn the results of a landmark presidential poll pitting former football star George Weah against Vice President Joseph Boakai in the first democratic transfer of power after decades and two devastating civil wars.
Whoever wins will succeed the continent's first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over at the helm of Africa's oldest republic in 2006.

The National Election Commission said a press conference was scheduled at 1745 GMT without giving any details. Armed and helmeted police were deployed outside the poll body's headquarters and Weah's supporters were already rejoicing.
"The Liberian people clearly made their choice... and all together we are very confident in the result of the electoral process," tweeted Weah.

He topped the first round of voting in October with 38.4 percent of ballots but failed to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a run-off. Boakai came second with 28.8 percent.
Weah is the only African ever to have won FIFA's World Player of the Year and the coveted Ballon D'Or. The 51-year-old starred at top-flight European football clubs Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s before playing briefly in England for Chelsea and Manchester City later in his career.

Chelsea icon Didier Drogba has already sent Weah a congratulatory message.
"Is it President Weah?" said the New Dawn newspaper on Thursday, referring to a man who has the backing of heavyweights including former warlord Prince Johnson and apparently the covert support of outgoing president Sirleaf.
But Boakai, a 72-year-old public servant of four decades standing, said it was too early to crow victory.

- Transition team set up -
"We are waiting for the final results. People are talking about Weah, but it's only in his counties but not mine," he said.
President Sirleaf's office said it had set up a team "for the proper management and orderly transfer of executive power from one democratically elected president to another," adding that it included several ministers.

Sirleaf's predecessor Charles Taylor fled the country in 2003, hoping to avoid prosecution for funding rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Two presidents who served prior to Taylor were assassinated.
The tumultuous events of the past seven decades in Liberia, where an estimated 250,000 people died during back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003, have prevented a democratic handover from taking place since 1944.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the "peaceful conduct" of the vote, praising "the government, political parties and the people of Liberia for the orderly poll".
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc also hailed the peaceful nature of the vote.

- 'Exciting moment' -
The election passed without a single major incident of violence despite weeks of delays caused by legal challenges and Liberians said they were looking forward to a peaceful handover after 12 years under Sirleaf.
"Since years of civil war this is the first time we see the transition of power from one person to another," voter Oscar Sorbah said.

The Sirleaf administration, elected in 2005, guided the nation out of the ruins of war and through the horrors of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, but is accused of failing to combat poverty and corruption.

Weah's CDC party watched their icon miss out on the presidency in a 2005 bid. He was similarly frustrated when he ran for vice-president in 2011, but has repeatedly urged its young and exuberant supporters to keep cool.
"No matter what the provocation will be, CDC will not respond with violence," Jefferson Kotchie, head of the youth wing of the CDC, told supporters assembled at the party's headquarters.

The run-off was delayed for seven weeks due to legal challenges lodged by Boakai's Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round, but many of the complaints appeared to have been addressed in the second round.