The Oasis Reporters
October 17, 2017
When the polls closed in Liberia and 95% of the votes counted, it became known that there was no outright winner and the first independent West African nation had to go for a second round voting exercise to choose who would succeed the Nobel laureate outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically elected female president and she was in power for two six year terms.
A former soccer star, George Weah, 51, led the first round of voting in Africa’s oldest republic, a man who would readily tell you that he put Liberia on the world map.
Weah is better known for his illustrious soccer career than his politics. In 1995, he famously won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards—the only African to ever do so.
Since retiring from soccer in 2003, he’s taken up a career in Liberian politics. In 2005, he lost in a presidential runoff to Sirleaf. He unsuccessfully contested again in the 2011 elections, this time as vice presidential candidate under Winston Tubman. In 2014, he won a Senate seat. Weah say he hopes to build an inclusive government, improve the economy, and support vocational education.
Weah ended up with 39 per cent of the votes, 11 per cent less than the 50 per cent needed to win outright.
Runner-up Joseph Boakai recorded 29.1 percent out of a total of more than 1.5 million votes counted and with 95.6 percent of polling stations having reported. Boakai was more than 280,000 votes ahead of the third placed candidate, barrister Charles Brumskine, ( 9.8 percent) .
The final certified results from Tuesday’s poll must be announced by October 25. So far, less than five percent of precincts are yet to be counted, it appeared mathematically impossible that the order would change.
Weah had led in most of the 15 counties, even though that represented a small sample of the total votes.
A second round runoff will take place on November 7. On October 10, more than two million voters went to the polls to choose from among 20 candidates to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with turnout based on votes counted so far hitting nearly 75 percent.
Only one of the candidates is female. Eighteen different parties were represented alongside two independents.
The election, crucial for Liberia, is the third since a brutal civil war ended in 2003, and would provide the first peaceful transfer of power in 73 years.
Aside winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Sirleaf, during her term dealt with the devastating Ebola crisis and took on the taxing effort of rebuilding a country ravaged by war. Liberia still faces major challenges in tackling corruption, providing crucial services like education, health, and infrastructure and struggles to address issues such as female empowerment and youth unemployment.
Social-media reports had claimed a victory for George Weah. Arsene Wenger, manager of the famed UK club Arsenal, who handed Weah his first big break in European football, even congratulated Weah on his “victory.”
Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Weah’s main rival, can boast far more political experience. Vice president since 2006, he also served as Liberia’s minister of agriculture in the 1980s. Boakai, 73, is running on the incumbent government’s record of improvement in security and economic growth under the Unity party that has been in power since Sirleaf’s victory in 2005.
Vice President Boakai, who is nearly 71 years old, dismissed suggestions he’s too old. Boakai said age is not a handicap but rather a blessing. He said he has more experience than any of his possible challengers.
“Wherever I have been in this country, people start saying at least 10 years of peace. Without peace you can achieve nothing.
Ten years we have not heard about political prisoners; they have not heard about gun shots. They can move around their business. Apart from that, you can see around the country freedom of the press; you can see around the country that are connecting. In spite of all the challenges, you can see that governance structures are being put in place,” he said.
Vice President Boakai brushed off criticisms two years ago by some who say the Sirleaf government, had failed to deliver basic infrastructures such as dependable electricity and running water.
Liberia is 170 years old and to Boakai, a lot has happened since independence and he had once said the Sirleaf government inherited a lot of the problems it has been trying to correct.
Boakai believes no country can actually claim it can defeat corruption.
“Nowhere in the world where corruption has been completely eliminated, we put in place systems that will control [corruption] . And I want to believe that most of the people who talk about corruption, they can’t actually find who is corrupt,” he had once said.
News Agency of Nigeria
Joseph N. Boakai Movement