President-elect to transform Liberia, consolidate democracy
The former Vice-President who ran for the Unity Party (UP), Joseph Boakai, defeated incumbent President George Weah, who ran for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), in a tight second runoff in Liberia's presidential election held on November 14, 2023, emerging as the new President of Liberia.
According to Liberia’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), Boakai obtained 50.64 per cent of the vote while Weah obtained 49.36 per cent. Voter turnout was 55.8 per cent, down from 64.8 per cent in the first round of the election on October 10. The electoral body said the vote was free, fair and transparent, with no major irregularities or complaints.
Third head of State
At 78, Joseph Boakai, who describes age as a "blessing", democratically elected Head of State. The softly-spoken politician emerged neck-and-neck with Weah in the first round of voting on October 10, 2023, but below the 50 per cent needed to secure an outright victory, leading to last Tuesday's run-off.
The result of this election, therefore, paves the way for Liberia's second democratic transfer of power in over seven decades after Weah swept to power six years ago.
Weah, a former football star, has conceded defeat and congratulated Boakai on his victory. He also called for national unity and cooperation and pledged to work with the new government to ensure a smooth transition.
Peaceful transfer of power
This is the third peaceful transfer of power in Liberia since the end of the civil war in 2003. The election was seen as a test of the country's democracy and stability, as well as a reflection of public satisfaction with Weah's performance in his first term.
A former Vice-President under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female President of Africa, Boakai took his revenge on incumbent President George Weah, who defeated him in 2017.
The result marks a stark turnaround from 2017 when global soccer legend Weah was buoyed by a wave of hope and trounced Boakai with 62 per cent of the vote. Many have since grown disillusioned with the lack of progress as poverty, unemployment, food insecurity and poor electricity supply persist.
Presenting himself as an Everyman who transcended his humble beginnings, Boakai has attempted to craft a more energetic image after earning the unfortunate title of Sleepy Joe for his propensity to fall asleep at public events.
His opponents see his advanced age as a handicap and claim that he is out of touch with the younger generation in a country where 60 per cent of the population is under 25.
However, his supporters emphasised his age and unwavering probity, claiming that he alone would be able to restore confidence in institutions and fight corruption.
Boakai ran his presidential campaign on a platform focused on improving the country's infrastructure, investing in agriculture, attracting investors, promoting Liberia as a tourist destination and rebuilding the country's image. He has also vowed to fight corruption, improve the economy and alleviate the extreme poverty still suffered by most Liberians.
Specific campaign promises
Some of his specific campaign promises are: To restore the country’s image and reputation, both at home and abroad, by promoting good governance, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law; To develop the country’s infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, electricity, water and sanitation, to facilitate trade, commerce, and social services.
To invest in agriculture, which is the main source of livelihood for most Liberians, by providing farmers with access to credit, inputs, technology and markets; To diversify the economy and create jobs by attracting investors, supporting small and medium enterprises and promoting Liberia as a tourist destination, among others.
Who is Liberia’s new President
President-elect Joseph Boakai is a veteran Liberian politician who has held various positions in the public and private sectors. He was born on November 30, 1944, in the remote village of Worsonga in Lofa,
His parents could not read or write. However, Boakai studied at a school in the neighbouring country of Sierra Leone and graduated from one of the country's most prestigious high schools, the College of West Africa (CWA) in Monrovia, the country's capital and largest city. Boakai holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of
Liberia (1972). He received a scholarship from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and graduated from the University of Kansas (US) in 1976.
Beginning of career
Boakai began his career as a manager for the Liberia Product Marketing Corporation (LPMC), a state-owned agricultural commodities company. He later became the Managing Director of LPMC, the first Liberian to hold that position. He also served as Minister of Agriculture, Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), and as a consultant to the World Bank.
The 78-year-old Liberian entered politics in 2006 when he was elected as the Vice President of Liberia under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He served in that position for 12 years, until 2018. He has also served as the President of the Liberian Senate, and the chairperson of the Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice), a regional research organisation formerly known as the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA).
Having served for 12 years as vice-president under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female African head of state, he is familiar with running a country. Boakai and his wife Katumu Yatta Boakai have four children. He is a Baptist and a Deacon of the Effort Baptist Church.