- Weah calls on Boakai to concede, urging supporters to accept the decision
- The concession marks the triumph of democracy in West Africa
- Bogai faces major national challenges amid high poverty rates
MONROVIA, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Liberian President George Weah conceded election defeat to opposition leader Joseph Bokai on Friday after a fierce contest, ending a presidency marred by corruption allegations but helping to smooth a once-turbulent transition of power in the African nation.
Bogai, 78, a former vice president who lost to Weya in the 2017 election, led with 50.9% of the vote to Weya’s 49.1%, the country’s electoral commission said on Friday, with nearly all votes counted.
The result marks a stark turnaround from 2017, when world soccer legend Wei, buoyed by a wave of confidence, defeated Bokai with 62 percent of the vote. Many are disillusioned by the lack of progress: poverty, unemployment, food insecurity and poor electricity supply persist.
“A few minutes ago, I spoke with President-elect Joseph Bogai to congratulate him on his victory,” Weah said on national radio. “I ask you to follow my example and accept the election results.”
Weah’s concession paved the way for Liberia’s second democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades — the first was when Weah came to power six years ago.
His comments have seen eight military coups in three years in West and Central Africa, eroding confidence in democratic elections. When elections are held in the region, allegations of fraud abound and the results are often contested in court.
Instead, Bokai supporters in the capital Monrovia danced, shouted and honked car horns in the rain after the final result was announced.
“We have a job ahead of us and I am happy that the citizens gave us their approval,” Bokai told Reuters shortly after the results were announced. “First and foremost, we want to get the message of peace and reconciliation across.”
Boakai, a soft-spoken career politician, ran against Weah in the first round of voting in October.
Liberia is struggling to recover from two civil wars that killed more than 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003, and from the 2013-16 Ebola epidemic that killed thousands.
Many felt that Weah had not followed through on promises to alleviate poverty and improve the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
Arkoi Sarkor, 43, told Reuters he supported Bogai because he could not find a job during Weah’s tenure.
“I am very confident because I know Bogai is a man of principles and when he comes here, I know he is going to bring changes,” he said. “Some things that don’t do, that don’t feel right, he’ll put it on, that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Reporting by Kariel Doe and Alfonso Dove; By Edward McAllister and Anite Miridjanian; Editing by Louise Heavens, Jonathan Otis and Cynthia Osterman
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