Former soccer star George Weah elected Liberia’s 25th president

December 27, 2017 8:53 pm

Retired soccer star George Weah is a solid favorite to become Liberia’s next president as voters go to the polls Tuesday in the West African nation.

The 1995 world soccer player of the year, Weah won the first round on Oct. 10 beating Vice President Joseph Boakai, 73, by a 38 percent to 30 percent margin. They’re battling to succeed Harvard-educated former banker Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who’s due to step down in January.
Commonly known as Ma Ellen, Johnson Sirleaf defeated Weah in two previous elections. “We want a better future for our children,” Annie Ballah, a 35-year-old mother of two, said at the Kendeja voting center in Paynesville, a suburb of the capital, Monrovia. “I want my next president to provide free education and build roads that will increase trade.” Initially set for Nov. 7, the final round of voting was delayed after two candidates, including Boakai, asked the Supreme Court to look into allegations of fraud in the first round. The court dismissed the accusations.

Weah has pledged to fight corruption and bring “change.” He’s promised to create jobs in a country where more than half of the population is under 35, and to pursue a more open style of leadership than that of establishment politicians such as Boakai and Johnson Sirleaf. When Weah, 51, first declared his intention to run for president in 2005, opponents derided his lack of education and political inexperience. A high-school dropout who grew up in an impoverished neighborhood of Monrovia before playing soccer for professional teams in Italy and England, he wielded his rags-to-riches story as one of his key credentials, drawing thousands of soccer-loving boys to the green Hummer that became his trademark on the campaign trail.

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