Liberian President George Weah has conceded defeat to opposition leader Joseph Boakai after a tight presidential run-off, saying it was time to put national interest above personal interest
President George Weah of Liberia has congratulated Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the opposition Unity Party as winner of the 2023 presidential runoff election, held on Tuesday.
Weah called Mr Boakai, a former vice president, via telephone on Friday following the announcement of provisional results by the National Elections Commission (NEC), after it became clear that the opposition candidate had won the election.
According to the results released by Davidetta Brown-Lansana, the chairperson of the National Electoral Commission NEC, at exactly 5pm local time, Boakai polled 814,212 votes to defeat incumbent George Weah, who polled 785,778 votes. The vote differential is 28,434, or 1.78%. Total votes cast was 1,599,990, with 25,694 invalid votes. Number of registered voters was 1,625,684.
In a national televised address late Friday, President Weah said Liberians were the winners of the elections and called on his supporters to accept the result in good fate.
“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to President-elect Boakai, his supporters, and his campaign team. May his presidency be marked by success for all Liberians, and may our nation prosper under his leadership,” Weah said in the concession speech.
“Tonight, as we acknowledge the results, let us also recognize that the true winners of these elections are the people of Liberia. Through your peaceful and orderly exercise of your constitutional right to vote, you have once again demonstrated your commitment to the democratic principles that bind us together as a nation.
“Under my leadership, these elections were organized with a promise to the Liberian people – a promise of fairness, transparency, and credibility. I am proud to say that, for the most part, we have fulfilled that promise. The Liberian people have spoken, and their choice will be honoured and obeyed.
“However, the closeness of the results reveals a deep division within our country. As we transition to the new Boakai administration, we must be vigilant to the dangers of division and work together to find common ground. Now, more than ever, unity is paramount for the love of Mama Liberia.
“To the members of the Mighty Coalition for Democratic Change, I understand that this is not the outcome we desired. I urge you to follow my example and accept the results of the elections.
“Tonight, the Coalition for Democratic Change has lost the election, but Liberia has won. This is a time for graciousness in defeat, a time to place our country above party, and patriotism above personal interest. I remain your President until the handover of power, and I will continue to work for the good of Liberia.”
Joseph Boakai, who lost to Weah at the election six years ago, was vice president during the 12-year reign of President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson from 2006 to 2018. In January 2024, when the former vice president takes the oath of office, it will mark the third time a ruling party would transfer power to an opposition in Liberia’s history.
A veteran of his country’s politics, the president-elect, who is 78 years old, had previously served as the Minister of Agriculture from 1983 to 1985.
The international community has hailed the peaceful conduct of the election and congratulated President Weah, 57, for accepting defeat and furthering the culture of peaceful change of power in Liberia, home to around five million people.
“Having led the West African Elders Forum (WAEF) Mediation Mission to both the October 10, 2023 general elections and the November 14, 2023 Presidential run-off poll in Liberia, I am deeply pleased with the successful outcome of the democratic process and look forward to a peaceful transition in January, 2024,” said former Nigerian leader, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
“I congratulate the President-Elect His Excellency Joseph Boakai and urge him to be magnanimous in victory and seek to continue the efforts to unite and advance his country,” he added. “I am also particularly grateful to the outgoing President His Excellency George Weah, who has just conceded defeat and congratulated his opponent even ahead of the official declaration of the final result by the National Election Commission of Liberia. By doing this, President Weah has exhibited an exemplary display of statesmanship and commitment to the peace and progress of his country.”
Former President Jonathan said the outcome of the election represented a gain for democracy and the ECOWAS sub-region, which has seen democratically-elected governments overthrown in recent years in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
George Weah, the first African footballer to win both FIFA’s World Player of the Year trophy and the Ballon d’Or, was elected in 2016 in a runoff, defeating Boakai with a wide margin. The youths of Liberia had hoped that he would turn around their country that had undergone devastating civil wars and an ebola epidemic. Obviously, he could not live up to the hopes of his supporters which was why he lost his bid for a second term, say analysts.
Nevertheless, his gracious acceptance of defeat would advance democracy in Liberia and even in the continent of Africa.