Liberia’s President and football legend, George Weah, on Friday, conceded defeat after nearly complete returns showed opposition leader Joseph Boakai led with 50.89 per cent of the votes.
“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the CDC (party) has lost the election, but Liberia has won.
“This is the time for graciousness in defeat, to put national interest above personal interest,” he said in a speech on national radio.
Results published by the electoral commission after tallying the ballots from more than 99 percent of polling stations gave Weah 49.11 percent of the votes cast.
The 78-year-old Boakai beat Weah by just over 28,000 votes.
Weah said he had spoken to Boakai “to congratulate him on his victory”.
“The Liberian people have spoken, and we have heard their voice. However, the closeness of the results reveals a deep division within our country,” Weah said in his speech.
Around 2.4 million Liberians were eligible to vote on Tuesday, but no turnout figures have been released.
Dozens of Boakai’s supporters danced in celebration outside one of his party’s offices in the capital Monrovia.
The elections were the first since the United Nations in 2018 ended its peacekeeping mission, created after more than 250,000 people died in two civil wars in Liberia between 1989 and 2003.
Meanwhile, Joseph Boakai, who is expected to win the presidency in Liberia after incumbent leader George Weah conceded election defeat, has four decades of political experience behind him.
Boakai was vice president from 2006 to 2018 to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, who rebuilt the ravaged country after a civil war left an estimated 250,000 dead.
This week’s vote was Boakai’s second run for the top job after he lost to President George Weah in a 2017 run-off.
The two faced off again in a second-round vote on Tuesday, following last month’s hard-fought first ballot, in which neither secured an outright victory.
Boakai has castigated the record of his opponent, a former international star footballer, and emphasised his own experience in office, proposing a “rescue plan” for the West African country.
He has pledged to improve infrastructure, invest in agriculture, attract investment, open the country to tourism and restore Liberia’s reputation.
“His motivation is to rescue Liberia from the current state it is in,” Mohammed Ali, Boakai’s Unity Party spokesman, told AFP ahead of the vote.
He highlighted an “influx of illicit drugs, the increase in the poverty rate (and) the image of the country being so low” as problems that have worsened under Weah’s presidency.
His strategy seemed to have worked.
While six years ago Boakai won 28.8 percent in the first round and 38.5 percent in the second, he pulled level with Weah in this year’s first round, with both receiving about 43 percent of the vote.
With almost all the polling stations tallied after the latest run-off, Boakai had garnered 50.89 percent of votes against Weah’s 49.11.