Soccer star George Weah poised to win Liberia presidency in democracy milestone

Arjan de Zeeuw

Soccer star George Weah poised to win Liberia presidency in democracy milestone

"George Weah is a good, humble and respectful person that should not be given the Liberian presidency, because he is being controlled by an evil hand", said Benoni Urey, a losing presidential candidate who switched his allegiance to Boakai.

Former global soccer star George Weah is poised to win Liberia's presidency, according to provisional results released Thursday by the National Elections Commission. Legal challenges delayed the vote to replace Sirleaf, and turnout was low. The commission said 56 percent of the country's 2.2 million registered voters cast ballots in the runoff vote. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize victor and the first female head of state elected in Africa, is stepping down after two terms in office.

He won the first round in October with 38.4 per cent of the vote, compared with the 28.8 per cent of Mr Boakai, 73.

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At his party headquarters outside Monrovia, tears streamed down Weah's face as he greeted supporters from a balcony.

"Grassroots citizens identify with George Weah, considering that he is close to their day-to-day experience", explained Ibrahim Al-Bakri Nyei, a Liberian political analyst at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

The second round of voting fulfils the constitutional requirement of 50 plus one per cent for a candidate to be declared victor. His life changed forever when, aged 21, Arsene Wenger spotted him playing for a team in Cameroon. Weah won both Fifa World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or in 1995. He stepped into politics in 2002 after retirement.

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He is now senator for Montserrado County in Liberia after being elected in 2014.

Weah's campaign was also not without its controversies, with critics saying he has yet to offer any concrete policy proposals. His choice of running mate Jewel Howard-Taylor - ex-wife of Charles Taylor, the former president and warlord serving 50 years in Britain for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone - has also raised eyebrows. He did not say whether he might challenge the eventual result. It follows two devastating civil wars. He will rather compound the problems in Liberia because I don't see him being trusted by the President-Elect, whom he (Obasanjo) openly worked against in 2005 to impose the outgoing President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for reasons best known to him.

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