In a monumental event for the nation of Liberia, former international soccer star George Weah was elected president in a peaceful and well-conducted democratic election. In a country where elections are often marred by violence and corruption, a peaceful election was a welcome and uplifting change for all.
“I congratulate the winner, Ambassador George Manneh Weah, and pray that God will guide him,” said Weah’s opponent in the final round of voting, Unity Party candidate Joseph Boakai. The concession, often taken for granted in American elections, came as a sign of impressive achievement for the African nation.
Weah, the candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change, who has run for president twice before, won the first round of elections with 38% of the vote. Weah beat out numerous candidates, including two former warlords and his ex-girlfriend. In the second round, in which voters chose between Weah and Boakai, Weah won handedly, picking up 61.5% of the vote.
Weah will replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has been in power since 2006. Weah’s platform was primarily centered around two main issues: improving infrastructure and keeping Liberia out of war, an issue that Sirleaf had great success with. However, in addition to dealing with those two issues, Weah will also be pressured to address some of Sirleaf’s shortcomings. In recent years, Sirleaf’s government has struggled with accusations of corruption, high unemployment rates, and a health system that is still recovering from the cataclysmic Ebola outbreak of 2014.
While many people have great hopes for Weah, there is some concern over his ability and credentials. While Ms. Sirleaf had numerous years of political experience prior to being elected president, Weah boasts no such acumen. Weah’s political career so far includes only one three-year term in Liberia’s senate, and he was heavily criticized for being inactive and not speaking much during his time there.
Weah’s victory was largely based on a change of attitude among him and his supporters, which won over many undecided voters. In prior election campaigns, Weah’s supporters, many younger voters, had often been seen as violent and hurt his image as a candidate, highlighted by “No Weah, no peace” chants that were heard during the 2011 election. However, this time around Weah took on a more respectful tone. While Boukai hinted that the elections were rigged against him or were organized unfairly, Weah took the high road, simply reiterating to his supporters how important it was to get out and vote.
Weah takes office this year for the beginning of his five-year term, as the world waits to see how he handles the issues facing Liberia.