He accused President Weah of failing to fulfill his promises to reduce poverty and fight corruption.
Joseph Boakai has become the new leader of Liberia after his rival and current president, George Weah, conceded the results of a close election, marking a peaceful transfer of power in a region that has recently witnessed several military coups.
The country’s electoral commission said on Friday that Boakai, the 78-year-old former vice president, managed a narrow victory with 50.9 percent of the vote against Weah’s 49.1 percent, after almost all the votes were counted.
“The Liberian people have spoken and we have heard their voice,” Weah said in an address to the nation.
“I urge you to follow my example and accept the election result,” he said, adding that “our time will come again” in 2029 when Boakai’s six-year term ends.
The results represent a major shift from 2017, when former international soccer star Weah comfortably defeated Bukai with 62 percent of the vote.
He had ridden a wave of public hope to reach the presidency, promising to combat poverty, develop the country’s faltering infrastructure, and suppress injustice and corruption.
But voters became disillusioned over time and Weah, 57, was accused of failing to deliver on his campaign promises to improve conditions in the West African country.
Regardless of the results of Friday’s vote, the fact that the president conceded even before the final official result was announced is significant, as the region has seen eight military coups in the past three years, raising concerns about the downfall of the democratic process.
Gabon, in Central Africa, earlier this year became the latest country in the region to experience a coup as military leaders seized power following a presidential election.
When a region’s military leaders fail to prevail, elections are usually contested in court, with accusations of fraud frequent.
But Boakai’s supporters took to the streets in the capital, Monrovia, after his victory was announced to celebrate. “We have a task to do, and I am happy that the citizens gave us their approval,” Boakai told Reuters news agency after the results were announced.
“First and foremost, we want to have a message of peace and reconciliation,” he said.
Boakai’s victory comes as Liberia tries to recover from two civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that killed at least 250,000 people, and an Ebola outbreak in the mid-2000s that killed thousands.
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