Liberian opposition leader and president elect Joseph Boakai, has pledged to reunite the country and turn around the economy to quickly end the hardship of the inhabitants, after beating former football star and incumbent George Weah in the country’s closest elections in decades.
Boakai secured 50.6% of the vote in the Nov. 14 runoff polls, final results released by the National Elections Commission showed. President Weah got 49.4%, it said.
“We will move to reconcile the country and make sure that we all get on board to build our country,” Boakai said in a victory speech Monday night. “We know the cost of living in this country. We want to improve it.”
Weah’s support has been eroded by rising living costs and endemic corruption. Boakai, 78, who lost to Weah in 2017, has campaigned on anti-Weah sentiment to build support.
Boakai now faces the challenge of dealing with an economic crisis spawned by rising food and fuel prices that triggered riots in December.
Inflation quickened to 12.4% in June, the fastest pace in more than two years, before easing to 10% in September.
The Liberian dollar is the eighth-worst performing African currency tracked by Bloomberg against the dollar this year — having depreciated more than 18%.
Boakai, who previously served as deputy to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf between 2006 and 2018, has said he’ll boost economic growth by improving the nation’s infrastructure and increasing farm output.
“We want to quickly review and find reasons for some of the hardship, especially in areas that are essential to their livelihood,” he said after Monday’s declaration. The results were the tightest since end of civil war in 2003.
The father of four was Minister of Agriculture between 1983 and 1985 and was managing director of state-owned Liberia Produce Marketing Corp. and once head of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Co.
Boakai will also need to tackle graft — Liberia ranks 142nd out of 180 nations on advocacy group Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index.
Last year, Weah accepted the resignations of three close allies when the US Treasury imposed sanctions on them after they were implicated in cases involving dubious contracts and the diversion of public funds.
The country of 5.4 million people is struggling to recover from two civil wars and its worst ever outbreak of Ebola that peaked in 2014. Per-capita income stood at $754.5 last year, more than two times lower than the sub-Saharan Africa average, according to the World Bank.