Politician and former World and European Footballer of the Year, George Weah, has been elected as the President of Liberia. The former football ace George Weah defeated his opponent, Joseph Boakai, with 61.5% of the vote.
The result means that Weah will replace the outgoing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first female President. This is the second time Weah has ran for public office. The first occasion was in 2005 where he lost the presidential campaign. The second saw Weah lose out on the Vice-Presidency in 2011. This has proven to be third time lucky for the legendary footballer. The result has made history in Liberia, as it is first democratic transfer of power since 1944.
The election itself was mired by accusations of foul-play and electoral irregularities. Weah had won the first round of voting in October with 38.4% but failed to capture the 50% required to avoid a runoff vote. Boakai came second with 28.8% of the vote.
Mr Weah’s win is being heralded by some as a new beginning. In recent history, Liberia has gone through a tumultuous period. From the two civil wars that ran from 1989-2003 to the more recent outbreak of Ebola; Liberia has struggled to enjoy an extended period of relative peace. To compound the woes of the Liberian people, rampant poverty persists to be a huge problem. Liberia has a GDP per capita of $455, in comparison to the global average of $15,800. Undoubtedly, economic growth will be central to Weah’s mandate and his party, Congress for Democratic Change.
However, Weah victory does not come without criticism. His running mate during this election was Jewel Howard-Taylor. Howard-Taylor is the former wife of Charles Taylor – former Liberian President and convicted war criminal. Whilst Howard-Taylor is regarded as a competent politician both her links to the former dictator and her intention to review the mandate of his former party, have drawn extensive criticism.
Sirleaf’s former government, has been described as corrupt and nepotistic by detractors. Perhaps this is Weah’s chance to make a marked difference. If he tackles corruption head-on, rejects favouritism and opens up the country to foreign investment, ensuring that Liberian citizens are the primary beneficiaries of such action. There is no reason why he can not have all the success.