President Weah ... Former AC Milan star set to become Liberia president

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December 29, 2017
In this Oct. 10, 2017, file photo, former football star George Weah, presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change, casts his vote during the presidential election in Monrovia, Liberia.

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP):

Former international football star George Weah was poised to win Liberia's presidency with a significant lead and more than 98 per cent of votes counted, according to provisional results released yesterday, as the West African nation prepared for its first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.

Weah received 61.5 per cent of ballots counted and Vice President Joseph Boakai received 38.5 per cent, the National Elections Commission said.

As Weah's supporters erupted in celebration, final results were expected today.

The 51-year-old Weah, a FIFA World Player of the Year and senator who entered politics after his 2002 retirement from football, also led the first round of voting in October but didn't receive enough votes to win outright over the 73-year-old Boakai, who has been vice president for 12 years.

They were vying to replace Africa's first female president, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has served two terms. She led the country's recovery from back-to-back civil wars and saw it through an Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians in 2014-2015. Sirleaf didn't publicly support either candidate.

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This is the first time in more than 70 years that the nation founded by freed American slaves is seeing one democratically elected government hand power to another. The new president is expected to take office in January.

Neither Weah nor Boakai made any public comment yesterday night after the first results were announced.

Results from four of Liberia's 15 countries were yet to be released. Though voter turnout for Tuesday's run-off was low, Weah drew support from the younger generation, which makes up the majority of Liberia's population of 4.6 million people.

Renowned for his pace and clinical finishing, Weah spent five years at AC Milan between 1995 and 2000, winning two league titles.

He also became the first African player in history to win the Ballon d'Or and be named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995.

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