MONROVIA – Backers of soccer star George Weah said on Thursday he was poised to declare victory in Liberia’s presidential election after their data showed him winning more than 60 percent of the vote – an assertion dismissed by his rival.
Electoral authorities did not confirm the figures from Weah’s campaign team. Weah’s opponent, Vice President Joseph Boakai, told Reuters he had not seen any vote counts and was optimistic he would win.
Unofficial tallies by media outlets have consistently shown Weah, a former AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain player, ahead in the second round run-off vote, which is meant to herald the first democratic transition of power since 1944.
Liberia’s election commission (NEC) said it would announce preliminary results later on Thursday, though the process has been beset by delays.
The U.S.-based Carter Center said there were “notable improvements” in the handling of Tuesday’s vote from the first round in October, echoing positive assessments from other international observers.
“We are very confident. We have not heard from Mr. Boakai but we anticipate a call at some point,” the secretary-general of Weah’s campaign, Janga Kowo, told Reuters.
Kowo said his team’s figures were based on nearly 60 percent of ballots cast and showed him ahead in 14 out of Liberia’s 15 counties.
In an interview in the courtyard of his home on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia, Boakai said he thought he would win.
“I don’t have a sense of losing the election,” he said.
“What we wanted and all hoped for were free, fair and transparent elections. I doubt seriously if that is what we are going to get,” he added, without elaborating.
Weah, the only African ever to be named FIFA World Player of the Year, was widely considered the favourite to succeed outgoing president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Liberia is Africa’s oldest modern republic and was founded by freed U.S. slaves in 1847. Its last democratic transfer of power occurred in 1944 and was followed by a military coup in 1980 and a 14-year civil war that ended only in 2003.