Former soccer star George Weah has won Liberia’s presidential run-off election and will succeed incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf next month, the country’s first democratic transition in over 70 years.
With 98.1 percent of the vote counted, Weah led with 61.5 percent to Vice President Joseph Boakai’s 38.5 percent, National Elections Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoyah told reporters in the capital Monrovia on Thursday.
At his party headquarters outside Monrovia, tears streamed down Weah’s face as he greeted supporters from a balcony. Below, hundreds of young people sang and danced to a live performance of Hipco, Liberian hip hop music popular with the country’s impoverished youth.
“Success for George Weah is victory for the whole country,” a 47-year-old engineer named Randall Zarkpah said as he walked home with his young son through streets ringing with honking car horns and loud cheers as dusk fell.
“When you feel sick for some time and you receive proper medication - that is how I feel now. He will be good for our country. He is King George!”
Weah grew up in Clara Town slum in Monrovia and went on to become the only African to win FIFA World Player of the Year, starring for AC Milan, Paris St Germain and Chelsea.
His popularity at home fueled a previous run for president, in 2005. He won the first round then but lost the second round to Johnson Sirleaf, whom he will now succeed.
His rags-to-riches story helped him tap into dissatisfaction with Johnson Sirleaf’s 12-year tenure. She drew a line under years of civil war but drew criticism for failing to root out corruption or persistent poverty.
“My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation,” Weah wrote on Twitter after the results were announced. “I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on.”
Weah’s critics, however, say he has offered few concrete policy proposals. His choice of running mate has also raised eyebrows: Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of Charles Taylor, a former president of Liberia who is serving 50 years in a British prison for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone.
“I think Weah is not fit for the work. He will see it,” said Anthony Mason, 34, who had huddled around radios at the headquarters of Boakai’s Unity Party for the results.
Weah looked set to sweep 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties in the run-off. Turnout in Tuesday’s vote stood at 56 percent, the election commission said. Earlier on Thursday, Boakai said he doubted that the vote was “free, fair and transparent”, without elaborating. He did not say whether he might challenge the eventual result.
The second round was delayed by more than a month after the third-place finisher in October’s first round, backed by Boakai, alleged fraud. The Supreme Court ultimately rejected the challenge. The U.S.-based Carter Center and National Democratic Institute said on Thursday there were notable improvements in the handling of the run-off, echoing positive assessments from other international observers.
Founded by freed U.S. slaves in 1847, Liberia is Africa’s oldest modern republic. But the last democratic transfer of power occurred in 1944, a military coup took place in 1980 and a 14-year civil war ended only in 2003.
For a possible third time since multi-party elections were restored, Liberians will be revisiting the polls to decide on who becomes the country's next president in a run-off presidential election between the two candidates who have obtained the most number of votes from the October 10 polls.
The two candidates with most of the votes so far have not been able to secure 50%+1. So far the top opposition contender, George Manneh Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), has secured 572,453 votes, which amounts to 39.0% of the 1,550,923 votes already tallied across the country. Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP), trails behind Weah with 427,550 votes, 29.1% of the national tally so far.
And with the The National Elections Commission (NEC) having tallied 95.6% of all votes cast on October 10, it is quite unavoidable that a run-off election will ensue.
Weah is contesting as a presidential candidate for the third time since the end of the 14-year Liberian civil war in 2003.
According to the Liberian Constitution, the President and Vice President must receive an absolute majority of the votes in order to win the election. An absolute majority means that the candidate must receive fifty percent plus one (50%+1) of all valid votes cast. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, then there will be a run-off election between the two candidates who received the most votes.
So as it is becoming evident and since neither of the leading presidential candidates (Weah & Boakai) has or could acquire 50%+1 votes, the NEC is mandated by Article 83 (b) of the Liberian Constitution to conduct a run-off to determine the next President of Liberia.
Meanwhile Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP), Ex-Coca-Cola executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and Sen. Prince Yormie Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) are trailing in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively, and will not be qualified to participate in the run-off as a candidate. Each of them, however, has significant number of devoted voters who they could encourage to vote in favor of either of the two top in the run-off.
Brumskine has so far received 144,359 votes (9.8%), while Cummings has received 104,127 votes (7.1%) and PYJ gets 102,564 votes (7.0%).
According to Article 83(b) of the Liberian Constitution, a runoff election is held within two weeks following the announcement of the results of the ballots cast in the first round of the presidential election. The NEC, by the same law, has until October 25 to announce the final results of the first round of voting and the possible run-off.
Role of other parties not contesting the run-off
All political parties, even if they are not participating in the run-off, have a stake in the electoral process. Their accredited representatives may monitor the election to ensure that it is free, fair and transparent. Also, political parties that are not contesting the run-off may encourage their members who are registered voters to participate in the election by voting for a preferred candidate between the two leading candidates.
Party representatives may witness every process at the polling place except the act of a voter recording his or her vote. Inside the place, representatives may not communicate with voters in any way. During polling, the party or candidate's representatives for the run-off election are allowed to stand to witness the polls from a visible position.
This step is to ensure the transparency of the process by allowing a party or a candidate representatives to observe the process of identification of the voter in the Final Registered Roll (FRR).
Run-off campaign period
The campaign period for the possible run-off election shall commence on the day following the announcement of the final results, but the NEC may announce the results earlier and the campaign shall end 24 hours before Election Day. Campaign guidelines issued by the NEC for the October 10 elections remain in effect; parties and their supporters must campaign in compliance with these guidelines and regulations.
What regulates campaign expenditures?
Campaign expenditure limits set forth in the 1986 New Elections Law as amended by the 2004 Electoral Reform Law shall include the additional campaign period for the run-off Election. As amended in Section 13 of the Campaign Finance Regulations, the post-election campaign finance report for candidates contesting the run-off Election shall be submitted fifteen (15) days after the official results of the run-off election are announced.
Source: Liberian Observer
Former soccer star George Weah maintained his lead over Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai as more provisional results from the West African country’s presidential election were announced on Friday.
If current trends hold, the rivals would contest a runoff next month to decide who will succeed Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in what would be Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in decades. Based on returns from about a third of the country’s more than 5,000 polling stations, Weah has received 39.6 percent of votes cast, with Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP) at 31.1 percent, the elections commission said.
“We are still confident that there are places that we believe are our strong support ... We are very optimistic that with reports coming in, UP is going to take the lead,” Boakai told Reuters after Friday’s results announcement.
Charles Brumskine, a lawyer, was running third with 9.3 percent of the vote. The final certified results from Tuesday’s poll must be announced by Oct. 25, although the provisional first-round winner is expected to be known in the coming days.
Weah, a star striker for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan who won FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 1995, came in second behind Johnson Sirleaf in a 2005 election that drew a line under years of civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.
He has served in the senate since 2014 for the Congress for Democratic Change opposition party. Boakai, the former head of Liberia’s petroleum refinery company and agriculture minister, has served as Liberia’s vice president since 2006. Brumskine and the parties of two other candidates have said the vote was marred by fraud and vowed to contest the results, though international election observers have said they saw no major problems.
“The Liberian people deserve to know what was done,” Brumskine said. “They deserve a valid, transparent election. So many Liberians were deprived of their constitutional right to vote. We will, therefore, be requesting a re-run of the election.”
Liberia, Africa’s oldest modern republic, was founded by freed U.S. slaves in 1847, but its last democratic transfer of power occurred in 1944. Johnson Sirleaf’s nearly 12 years in office have seen the country’s post-war peace consolidated, although Liberians complain about poor public services and widespread corruption.
Provisional results are trickling in from polling centres across Liberia following Tuesday’s peaceful general elections in the West African country.
Results are expected from 5,390 polling units in 2,080 centres across the 15 counties that make up the country. It is not clear yet how many people participated out of the 2.1 million voters registered for the election, but media reports said turnout was high.
A correspondent in Monrovia reports that polling stations in and around the capital were packed with eager voters, including the aged, many of whom queued up before dawn. Voting started on schedule in the 19 polling centres visited by NAN, but there were reports of late arrivals of materials in some rural areas due to bad roads and poor weather.
It was observed that voting was a bit disorganised in some polling stations in Monrovia as many voters had difficulties locating their voting points. Many, who had spent hours on a particular queue, were directed to other voting points when it was their turn to vote, leaving them frustrated.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia said the exercise was generally successful, but some political parties have expressed reservations about the process. The parties that expressed reservations included the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), whose presidential candidate is ex-football star George Weah.
Also raising an eyebrow is the Alternative National Congress (ANC) represented in the presidential elections by former Coca-Cola executive, Mr Alexander Cummings. Local media quoted Cummings as saying that he was informed of voting hitches in several places that prevented Liberians from exercising their franchise. He said in some counties, ballot papers arrived after 3 p.m. and many voters with valid voter cards were turned away for many reasons including their names not being on the voter register.
Speaking to reporters while monitoring the elections on Tuesday, Mr John Mahama, the head of the ECOWAS Elections Observation Mission to Liberia, said there were some lapses mainly on the part of electoral officials.
Mahama, who toured polling stations in several counties, attributed the situation partly to late training of presiding and electoral officers. But he lauded the National Elections Commission and the presiding officers for conducting the process peacefully and urged it to learn from the mistakes.
The chairman of NEC, Mr Jerome Korkoya, admitted the flaws while addressing a press conference at the commission’s headquarters in Monrovia on Tuesday.
Korkoya said, “One of the issues was caused by voters joining the queue without consulting the queue controller, and going straight to a polling place without checking if they are in the right place in the polling precinct.
“Affected voters assumed that because they registered in a particular room in a centre, so they went to that particular room during voting.
“In many cases, your name will not be in there but in another room because the precinct where you registered will be spread out into various centres during elections, and your name may be in one of the centres within that precinct.
“A second issue was in cases where a voter is registered twice. These individuals are registered at the last place of registration in line with our policy. You will not be at the original place.’’
On voters not finding their names on the register, the NEC chairman said any one legitimately registered with the commission, who had a valid voter card and was not disqualified should be allowed to vote. He said affected voters would be compensated with more time, and advised other aggrieved parties to file their complaints to the commission for a redress.
Twenty candidates are in the race to succeed the incumbent president and Nobel Prize winner, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who has served out her two terms of six years each. Among the contenders is the incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party.
Elected for the first time in 2005, Johnson-Sirleaf inherited a country that was devastated by 14 years of civil war. She is lauded for restoring order and sustaining peace in the country in her 12 years in office.
Last week, the Government of Liberia received a grant of EUR 10 million (USD 11.2 million) from the European Union (EU).
The EU disbursed the money directly into the treasury account of the Government to support the budget of the Republic of Liberia. This is the third payment under the EU's budget support programme after a first payment of EUR 29.2 million (USD 33 million) in 2015 and EUR 16 million (USD 18 million) in 2016.
Disbursement of the third payment comes after the Government of Liberia made satisfactory progress in improving public financial management and toward specific targets relating to security and rule of law in line with the Agenda for Transformation, Liberia’s medium-term development strategy. Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, Head of the European Union Delegation to Liberia, said:
"The EU gives this 10 million euro expecting that the Government will use it to provide Liberians with the vital public services they deserve and it has committed to provide: health, education, security and rule of law.
I encourage the Government to continue improving the management of public finances and fight against corruption. In particular, I applaud the operationalisation of four pilot county treasuries, the establishment of a Civilian Complaints Board for the police and immigration services and improved access to justice through magistrates' courts and county courts for cases related to sexual and gender based violence. I encourage Government and the Judiciary to continue their efforts to better plan procurement for entities in the security and rule of law sector and to ensure that spending takes place as planned."
The European Union withheld EUR 2 million due to the Government of Liberia's failure or partial failure to meet indicators related to the timely publication of procurement plans for the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary and spending less money than planned through entities in the security and rule of law sector.