Liberia: UP Prepares for Battle in Southeast

Senator Teahjay says the ruling CDC is ill-equipped to lead the country for the next six years.

…. Receives morale-boosting endorsement from ‘influential’ Senator MiltonTeahjay

By William Q. Harmon and J. Burgess Carter

The performance of the Unity Party in the Southeastern region of the country during the first round of the October 10 presidential elections fell short of expectations as President George Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) practically swept all of the votes across the five counties of the region.

While some might have alleged ballot stuffing or other electoral irregularities on the part of the ruling coalition, albeit with no evidence to prove it, the votes from that region, which is the remotest and most underdeveloped part of the country, propelled President Weah as the highest vote earner in the first round with 43.8 percent of the total votes. Boakai barely garnered ten thousand votes in a region that has over 150,000 registered voters.

Despite this setback, Boakai's political fortunes could take a positive turn with a morale-boosting endorsement from Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay, a prominent political stakeholder from the region who can significantly influence voter sentiment.

Teahjay on Tuesday, October 31 officially declared his support for the former Vice President’s presidential bid ahead of the upcoming runoff elections, noting that the ruling CDC is ill-equipped to lead the country for the next six years.

Teahjay, who lost his senatorial seat in the October 10 elections, told legislative reporters at the Capitol Building press briefing that President George Weah failed to capitalize on the substantial gains made across several sectors under the previous Unity Party government.

“As we approach the November 14 runoff elections and after extensive consultations, we have arrived at the conclusion of officially endorsing Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai, the Standard Bearer of the Unity Party. He is a statesman of immense patience, character, and the ability to lead Liberia while redirecting the course of governance for the benefit of all Liberians,” Teahjay said. “We call upon all our fellow citizens of Sinoe County and all Liberians to join us in this mission for the pursuit of a better Liberia.”

The Sinoe County Senator alleged that ballot stuffing did take place in the Southeast on October 10, though he fell short of providing any evidence.

“Regarding the electoral infrastructure, elections are meant to adhere to the principle of one man, one vote. However, under the CDC government, elections seem to have deviated into a scenario of one man, five ballot papers,” he alleged.

He added that the October polls in the Southeast and other regions exposed a troubling pattern of election magistrates colluding with NEC Presiding Officers and Election Supervisors to manipulate vote counts in favor of CDC Presidential and Legislative candidates.

“Incidents, such as those in Districts 8 and 15 of Montserrado County, where NEC workers were arrested for criminally inflating votes for incumbent legislative candidates, were disturbingly common in the southeastern counties and other parts of the country,” he said.

Teahjay, who was elected to the senate in 2014 on the ticket of the Unity Party, subsequently switched allegiance to his kinsman, Weah, with the aim of helping elevate the southeast—developmentally the most neglected region of the country—a dream he said the President has done little to achieve.

“Following the pivotal 2017 legislative and presidential elections, I wholeheartedly dedicated six years of my political career within the legislature to assist the CDC in fulfilling the mandate of the people of Sinoe County,” he said. “Regrettably, after contributing to President Weah’s development agenda in the legislature and observing the initial results of the 2023 elections, it is abundantly clear that the CDC is ill-equipped to lead this nation for the next six years.”

In the later years of the CDC administration, Teahjay said he held the premature hope that the government would capitalize on the substantial gains made across various sectors under the previous UP government. 

“To my dismay, the CDC has not demonstrated a willingness to harness the crucial political capital it was entrusted with. It is disheartening to witness a government that rose on a populist platform lacking the trust, credibility, and the ability to bring together national political leaders to stabilize the country.

“Instead, we have witnessed the marginalization and alienation of the political class, often encouraging chaos and, in some instances, even being linked to the tragic murders of individuals who refused to submit to the whims of the Weah administration,” he noted.

However, with Teahjay’s endorsement, many political pundits believe that Boakai’s underperformance in the Southeast has been counterbalanced. The endorsement, they believe, has the power to shape public opinion and sway voters towards Boakai and his Unity Party — as Teahjay, a man who served as Superintendent for many years before becoming senator, holds immense value for Joseph Boakai. It is also believed that Teahjay’s arrival boosted Boakai’s popularity within a region that is politically significant due to President George Weah's roots in the area.

“Teahjay’s endorsement can play a pivotal role in mobilizing voter support and increasing voter turnout,” a top official of the UP campaign team said yesterday.  With the endorsement, he said, Boakai gained a chance to bolster his campaign efforts in a region that turned its back on him on October 10. “We are now getting set to battle it out with the CDC in the Southeast.”

In a country where regional affiliations often influence political outcomes, President George Weah’s tribal connection to the Southeastern region has undoubtedly garnered him substantial support in the past. However, Boakai’s endorsement by the former Sinoe County superintendent has the potential to shift loyalties, encouraging voters to reconsider their support for Weah and opt for Boakai instead.

“Coming right ahead of the runoff election, this endorsement serves as a morale-boosting development for the UP,” said Eugene Fahngon, former Deputy Information Minister in the Weah administration turned staunch supporter of Boakai said on the Spoon-Talk show.

The endorsement, however, demonstrates Boakai's ability to garner support beyond his traditional strongholds and presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between his previous performance and the required majority for victory come November 14.

Meanwhile, this endorsement has the potential to sway voter sentiment, mobilize support, and challenge President Weah in his stronghold, and as the nation heads towards the runoff elections, attention will be focused on the impact of this endorsement on Boakai's prospects for securing victory and becoming the next President of the country.