By Omari Jackson & Leroy M. Sonpon, lll
As early as 8 a.m. tomorrow, October 10, polling places in the 73 electoral districts across the 15 counties in the country will open their doors and welcome voters to cast their ballots to elect liberia’s 25th President, as well as elect or re-elect 73 members of the House of Representatives. The 73 Representatives will make-up the 54th Legislature.
Tomorrow’s election will set the stage for the first transitional election since 1943 when Liberia and Africa’s first female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, after two terms (twelve years) in office, hands over the reigns of government to a democratically elected successor. In 1943, William Tubman was elected President of Liberia, peacefully replacing President Edwin Barclay.
Two million, one hundred eighty three thousand, six hundred and twenty nine (2,183,629) persons who have registered are expected to head to the polls, according to National Election Commission (NEC) statistics, of which, 1,064,274 persons are females, representing 41 percent; and 1,119,355 males, representing 51 percent.
Voting will commence at 8:00 a.m. and end 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday and voters will queue at 2,080 precincts and 5,390 polling places.
Meanwhile, as presidential and representative campaigning ended late last night (by 12:00 am), there have been many arguments about who staged a massive show of strength by the size of the crowds attracted during the campaign period, which ran from July 31 to October 8.
Some have argued that the Unity Party (UP), the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the Liberty Party (LP), in that order of crowd size, are the four political parties who have showed off strength in partisan turnout.
But despite the huge crowds, which caused some pollsters to “put certain candidates in the lead,” some political pundits recalled the words of US President Donald Trump, when he threw a jab at his rival Hilary Clinton, saying that he was going to prove the pollsters wrong because his “movement” was going strong.
“There is a movement going on,” President Trump said. “It’s a choice between the pessimism of Hillary Clinton and the optimism of a movement powered by millions of people from all over the country.”
Trump’s victory at the polls sends a strong message to all that the ultimate proof of a party’s crowd loyalty is at the ballot box. And in the case of Liberia, tomorrow’s polls will be no different.
According to the National Elections Commission (NEC), the final results of the election will be announced on October 25.
Accordingly, by October 25, the new members of the House of Representatives will be announced. But for the presidential election, if no candidate gets 50 percent +1 vote of the total votes cast, there will be a run-off as it occurred in the 2005 and 2011 presidential elections.
There are 20 candidates contesting the Presidency – 17 political parties/coalition candidates and three independents.
Over 1,100 Representative aspirants, including incumbents, are vying for 73 seats representing the 73 electoral districts of the 15 counties.
In the last couple of weeks, and in fact during the campaign period, many people, notably presidential candidates, have called on electorates not to allow any continuity; and the opposition, though unable to speak with one voice, have vowed to ensure a new brand of leaders.
So below, we offer brief analyses of six of the main opposition parties and their presidential aspirants and their chances in tomorrow’s all-important elections.
Unity Party (UP)
Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai may look like the people’s choice, as it was made clear on September 23, when thousands of partisans thronged the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) when he launched his campaign for the presidency in Montserrado. This overwhelming assembly settled at the ATS, despite criticism by many when he compared his duty as a vice president to a race car that had been parked, thereby inferring that since he was not in control of the administration, he could not make the kind of impact that his opponents had expected him to make in the country.
He indicated that he should be judged on his own terms as a leader; though he admitted that the UP administration, which he has served as Vice President for the last almost 12 years, ‘squandered some opportunities.’ For running, he wants the people to hold him responsible when he is elected on his own terms.
Congress for Democratic Change (CDC)
Senator George Manneh Weah believes, and his supporters insist, it is his time to win the election, having contested and lost the two previous elections. Though normally supported by throngs of partisans, yet many believe he is not ready to be made the president. Personally, he may look back and recognize that his barricade to the presidency in the past had been President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard educated economist whose credentials dwarfed his accolades as a former professional soccer player, that many think clearly has no business as head of state.
But his partisans look at the increasing cost of living and President Sirleaf once stated that the government could not control the prices of essential goods, as a mark of the UP’s failure.
Weah has a record of refusing to participate in a debate along with other presidential aspirants to articulate his views on why he wants to be president. While he is yet to disclose his political platform, his supporters claim that he does not need to participate in any debate to tell the Liberian people about his plans for the country. Their reason is, those who made promises did not live up to them, and therefore he would not want to make promises he would not make true.
Accused of being unable to speak publicly, he has remained silent; but it is his partisans, majority young people, who insist he has what it takes to lead the country to another level, better than any other candidate.
Liberty Party (LP)
Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine is chasing his third time dream to convince electorates to elect him President. He told electorates that he has learned his mistakes from the two previous losses and would do everything right to woo people to vote him into office.
Like all the 19 presidential aspirants, he has roamed the country convincing partisans and others to give him a chance and there are reports that he has gained considerable number of partisans and believes that his campaign messages have reached the Liberian people to secure him the chance on October 10, though he has been dogged by claims of tribal politics.
All Liberia Party (ALP)
Businessman Benoni Urey is one candidate who has vowed to join forces to dethrone the ruling Unity Party from power, even if he does not win. He has accused the UP of failing to live up to its promises to the Liberian people.
He has told the Liberian people that his government will provide more jobs, food security, decent health care and education. “I have done this as a private citizen and will do even more as your President. Let us get Liberia working and build a better future,” he told partisans and others throughout his campaign across the country.
Alternative National Congress (ANC)
The October 10 presidential and legislative elections are crucial because many think the outcome of the polls for Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s successor will have a lot to determine whether Liberia moves forward or not. And here comes Alexander Cummings, a former Coca-Cola executive, who has promised the kind of solutions-oriented thinking that he honed in the private sector.
Though many electorates believe he came to the scene rather too late, Cummings has made a significant impression throughout the country, visiting some of the most difficult to reach areas in Maryland, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh and Nimba counties, and winning converts that many believe can give him a chance for what he is striving for.
Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE)
Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, without doubt, was the target of the unsuccessful application of what came to be known as the controversial Code of Conduct. He did not resign his post as the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia where he initiated the ‘financial inclusion’ policy at the Central Bank and was able to put money in the pockets of those many describe as ‘marginalized’ in the leeward counties.
He was unscathed by the Code of Conduct and got approved to run; and since then, he has pushed the message that poverty is not Liberians’ destiny and therefore since he had done it at the CBL, becoming the President proper would give him the chance to alleviate poverty, and do all that has been wrong with the current administration in the last 12 years.
Dr. Jones’ concern has not been that there has not been a change of leadership in Liberia, but just that Liberia has not had leaders that are prepared to make the ultimate decisions and sacrifices, in the last 170 years. He spoke of a track record as the means of justification by which individuals seeking leadership should be judged. He has also spoken about Liberia being a land of possibilities, and therefore since poverty alleviation and financial inclusion are basic to his desire to become president, the electorates, he believes, will give him a chance.
United People’s Party (UPP)
The history of the UPP is intertwined with Liberians’ search for multiparty democracy, and while the country’s democracy is growing from its bitter past, the stalwarts of the UPP seem to have been relegated to the background.
The United People’s Party (UPP) was formed in the 1980s as a successor to the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) and the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), but was initially banned under President Samuel Doe because of its “socialist leanings.”
PAL and UPP leader Gabriel Baccus Matthews was the main opposition politician in Liberia under Doe, and after Doe’s death in 1990 he became Foreign Minister until 1993.
In the elections held on July 19, 1997, the UPP presidential candidate Gabriel Baccus Matthews won 2.51 percent of the vote. The party won 2 out of 64 seats in the House of Representatives and none in the Senate. While international observers deemed the polls administratively free and transparent, they noted that it had taken place in an atmosphere of intimidation because most voters believed that former rebel leader and National Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate Charles Taylor would return to war if defeated. Matthews retired as leader of the party in 1999.
UPP’s current standard-bearer, businessman MacDonald A. Wento, is campaigning throughout the country, promising a shared responsibility among all who participate in the economy, for the burden should be shared by the domestic private sector, the academic community, and the government.
The party believes that getting an education is the surest path to creating a stakeholder society for the youth to fulfill their dreams and contribute to economic growth and the growth of the country’s democracy.