Brendan Smialowski/Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images
Joseph Bogai, left, and George Weah
Liberia’s President George Weah has conceded defeat to opposition candidate Joseph Bokai after a tight vote.
Former soccer star Weah called Boakai after the country’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) released provisional results on Friday.
With almost all votes counted, the 78-year-old former vice president of Liberia, Bogai, won 51% of the vote, the country’s election commission said.
In his address to the nation, Weah said: “The results announced tonight, while not final, will be Ambassador Joseph N. Bokai represents our insurmountable lead. So, I spoke to President-elect Joseph N. Bogai a few minutes ago to congratulate him on his victory.
“Tonight, as we acknowledge the results, we will also acknowledge that the real winners of these elections are the people of Liberia,” he added.
President Weah took office in 2018 and will step down in January.
A run-off was triggered when Weah, 57, won a poll in early October by just 7,000 votes over his political rival, Boakai. However, he did not get the 50% threshold required to achieve complete success.
After a first term marred by corruption scandals and allegations of mismanagement, Weah was re-elected for a second six-year term.
He was praised for promptly agreeing to a peaceful transfer of power – a significant milestone in Liberia’s fragile democracy – ensuring a civil war and the assassination of previous leaders while in office.
There have also been coups in West and Central Africa in recent years.
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu was among the first to congratulate the new president-elect, while praising Weah’s “great example, undiluted patriotism and statesmanship. He has defied the stereotype that a peaceful transition of power is impossible in West Africa,” a statement from Nigeria’s presidency said.