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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Runoff election in Liberia, West Africa: revenge succeeded

Joseph Boakai will be the next president. He replaces George Weah, who was once more successful on the football field than in recent years at the top of the country.

Joseph Boakai - wearing a hat - casts his vote at a polling station.  A poll worker sits and writes something down in a notebook, while another poll worker stands and watches the scene.  In the background, men taking photos

Joseph Boakai cast his vote in Liberia’s capital Monrovia on Thursday

COTONOU taz | Congratulations are in order for Joseph Boakai, Liberia’s future head of state. The electoral commission has not yet officially confirmed this. But more than 99 percent of the ballots the runoff election for the presidency, which took place last Tuesday, have been counted. 50.89 percent chose the 78-year-old, who, according to the British BBC, was unassailable with a lead of 28,000 votes Incumbent George Weah lies.

Weah, who was voted World Player of the Year in 1995, recognized this early on. Even before Boakai’s camp claimed victory, he said: “The Liberian people have spoken and we have heard their voice.” His party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), lost the election. But Liberia won. In doing so, he made it clear that he accepted the result. In West Africa, election results often challenged in court by the losing parties, which can lead to unrest.

There had previously been praise from the European Union election observers. It was quiet on election day and the runoff election was better organized than the first ballot on October 10th. Weah was ahead by a slim margin, with an increase of 7,000 votes. However, Boakai managed to win over supporters of the remaining 18 candidates.

According to the EU’s assessment, the election campaign for the runoff election was also largely peaceful. However, there were riots before the first round of voting, in which 2.4 million registered voters could also vote for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate. In Lofa county at the end of September, two people died and 20 were injured in a clash between supporters of the two political camps. Civil society condemned the violence, as did the United Nations.

This is the second time Liberia has succeeded in changing political power in an election since the end of the civil war. Boakai, who belongs to the Unity Party (UP), was vice president under Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for 12 years, but lost to Weah in the 2017 runoff election. He didn’t have a real government bonus at the time. Johnson-Sirleaf, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Africa’s first elected female presidents, was criticized for not supporting Weah in the election campaign. In 2018 she was expelled from the party.

Boakai presents himself as someone who worked his way to the top from a poor background. It was only because of his determination, hard work and desire for education that he was able to graduate from the University of Monrovia with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He has never lost contact with the working population, he emphasizes on his homepage. He was already Minister of Agriculture in the 1980s and led projects to decentralize the agricultural sector. However, he often appeared less dynamic in public appearances and was nicknamed “Sleepy Joe” in 2017 because his eyes closed during a public event.

In a BBC interview before the election, Boakai said he wanted to ensure that no more cars got stuck in the mud in his first 100 days in office. Food prices would also have to fall and agricultural production would have to increase. He also wants to fight corruption.

That was one of Weah’s main goals six years ago, but he failed. After several scandals, he had to suspend several high-ranking state employees and confidants last year. The dissatisfaction with this and the difficult living conditions – more than two million of the approximately 5.2 million inhabitants live below the poverty line – have now cost Weah his election victory.

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