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Former world footballer of the year George Weah elected Liberian president

Former football star George Weah is set to become the president of Liberia.

With nearly all ballots counted, the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year winner secured more than 60 per cent of the vote to defeat Vice President Joseph Boakai.

He will succeed incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in what will be the West African nation's first democratic transition in more than 70 years.

At Mr Weah's party headquarters, tears streamed down his face as he greeted supporters from a balcony.

"Success for George Weah is victory for the whole country," supporter Randall Zarkpah said.

"When you feel sick for some time and you receive proper medication — that is how I feel now. He will be good for our country. He is King George!"

George Weah about to kick a ball on the football field.

Rags-to-riches story helped Weah win

Mr Weah grew up in a slum in the capital Monrovia, and went on to star on the soccer field for leading international clubs including AC Milan and Chelsea.

A striker, he became the only African to win FIFA World Player of the Year.

His rags-to-riches story helped him tap into dissatisfaction with Ms Sirleaf's 12-year tenure.

She drew a line under years of civil war, but was criticised for failing to root out corruption or persistent poverty.

But Mr Weah's critics have said he offers few concrete policy proposals.

George Weah smiles while surrounded by supporters.

His choice of running mate Jewel Howard-Taylor — ex-wife of Charles Taylor, the former president and warlord serving 50 years in Britain for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone — has also raised eyebrows.

Turnout in the vote stood at 56 per cent, the election commission said.

Earlier, Mr Boakai said he doubted that the vote was "free, fair and transparent", without elaborating. He did not say whether he might challenge the eventual result.

Founded by freed US slaves in 1847, Liberia is Africa's oldest modern republic.

But the last democratic transfer of power occurred in 1944. A military coup took place in 1980 and a 14-year civil war ended in 2003.

Reuters

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