Liberian voters will head to the polls on November 7 to decide the future leadership of their country, which could very well be represented by George Weah, a former FIFA World Player of the Year and one of the most talented strikers ever to play the beautiful game. Early Tuesday morning of October 17, a spokesman from the National Elections Commission addressed the press pool in Monrovia and explained that none of the running candidates had obtained more than 50 percent of the votes, which would entitle them to an automatic landslide victory. According to the democratic system in Liberia, a runoff election must now be held among the two leading candidates.
The candidates are hoping to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who made history in 2005 as the first female president elected in Africa. President Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Laureate, defeated George Weah and has served two terms; her Vice President Joseph Boakai will now face Weah, who is widely considered to be a more popular candidate among Liberian voters who are ready for change.
Although Liberia’s recent history has been characterized by armed conflict and corruption, it is important to note that this is the oldest republic with a functioning democracy in the Continent; this is a country partially founded by liberated African Americans who believed in democratic ideals. For this reason, it was refreshing to see more than two million Liberian voters at the pools casting their ballots in relative peace. Unlike the recent elections in Kenya, which ended up in annulment after much controversy, the tallying of the Liberian votes has been conducted in orderly fashion and without protests.
Liberians had more than a dozen candidates to whom to give their votes; most are from established political factions with just two independents and only one female hopeful. The ruling Unity party is expected to win quite a few seats out of the 73 in the House of Representatives. Analysts are expecting George Weah’s persistent political work over more than a decade to finally result in a victory. The 51-year-old football star would have a more stable platform to carry out his duties as President thanks to the work of President Johnson Sirleaf, who is credited with promoting peace and development after more than 50 years of political chaos that at one point featured American military intervention.
There is no question that Weah will likely leverage his stardom and connections to attract foreign direct investment, and he would be a very positive role model for Liberian youth, but he will also have to deal with a country where more than 60 percent live under poverty conditions.