Supporters of Liberia’s president-elect George Weah have taken to the streets of the capital, Monrovia, to celebrate his election victory, which marks the West African nation’s first democratic transition of power in more than seven decades.
He earned 61.5 percent of the vote, compared to 38.5 percent for his opponent, Vice President Joseph Boakai, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced.
Voter turnout was 55.8 percent, or just over 1.2 million people, the NEC reported.
Boakai had conceded defeat and congratulated his rival earlier in the day.
In a speech to his supporters, the Unity Party candidate said he had spoken to Weah on the phone and offered him “a hand of goodwill, friendship and gratitude” as he accepted the provisional election results.
“Although we worked so seriously for a different outcome than what [the] results show, my faith, values and principles dictate that I respect the will of the people as announced by the National Elections Commission,” Boakai said.
He called on his supporters to put the election behind them and “push this nation to its rightful place within the community of nations”.
“Let us continue to work even harder to promote reconciliation,” Boakai said.
Weah is a former football star and senator from the Congress for Democratic Change party.
Expected to officially take office next month, he received messages of congratulations from international leaders on Friday.
In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Congratulations to George Weah for his brilliant election and the people of Liberia for going down the path towards peace and reconciliation.”
Weah responded: “I am honoured to join a new generation of heads of state. We have a lot to do to accelerate the construction of Africa’s future.”
The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, also congratulated Weah on Twitter and wished him “much success”. Weah responded by thanking Sall for “his support and advice”.
“Together, let’s help speed up the development of our continent,” Weah wrote.
The US also offered its congratulations to Weah and to “the people of Liberia on the successful conclusion” of the election, which it said “represents a major milestone for Liberia’s democracy”.
Outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is at the end of her second six-year term, will transfer power to Weah in the nation’s first democratic transition since 1944.
In 2005, Sirleaf became the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa, following the end of the second civil war in Liberia in 2003.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world with 80 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day.