For the first time in Liberia’s modern multi-party democracy, Liberians will elect their 24th President from between two contenders, both of who work at the Capitol, home of the National Legislature.
At 12 noon on January 16, 2018, it will be another history making moment when either outgoing Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai or Senator George Manneh Weah may take the oath of office in these important words: ‘I, [full name] do solemnly swear…’
The two runoff candidates are members of the Senate and interestingly assemble every Tuesday and Thursday in the same Chamber; VP Boakai as President of the Senate and Mr. Weah as Senator for Montserrado County.
In fact, the election of one of these top two presidential contenders from the Senate was long predicted during the opening ceremony of the 53rd Legislature by Bomi County District #1 representative-elect Edwin Melvin Snowe.
That statement was further buttressed by then Speaker of the House of Representatives Alex Tyler, when he recommended (but failed) that an amount of US$1 million be allotted to each of the 73 electoral districts to complement the US$200,000 budgetary allocation to each of the 15 statutory districts as County Development Funds.
Some members of the Lower House, months later, in pursuit of similar presidential ambitions, started making monthly financial contributions towards the formation of a new political party. Thus the Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP) was created, and by fate was included in a three-party coalition that included the National Patriotic Party and Congress for Democratic Change.
With that development, the now Senjeh District Representative-elect Edwin Snowe’s prediction was all but complete, especially when George Weah joined the Senate in his 2014 Special Senatorial Election win.
Now that the 2017 presidential and representative election results are pointing to a runoff between the President of the Liberian Senate, Mr. Boakai, and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Youth and Sports, Mr. Weah, the Senate Chambers will either be missing two Senators, or their president in Vice President Boakai.
VP Boakai is going to the run-off with outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives J. Emmanuel Nuquay as his running mate, and they are fighting an all-or-nothing battle. If they win, they occupy the highest offices in the land. If they lose, they simply go home.
On the contrary, Sen. George Weah and his running mate Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education and Public Administration, have the good fortune of “job security” on their side. For them, it is a win-win situation. If they lose, their senatorial seats await them. But if they win, they ascend to the highest offices in the land as Liberia’s first professional athlete-turned president (Weah) and the nation’s first woman Vice President and President of the Senate (Howard-Taylor). Howard-Taylor will also be the first former First Lady to hold either position.
Meanwhile, a renowned political commentator has disputed claims that the turnover of power to a new democratically elected leadership will be the first since 1944. “That is dangerously erroneous and far from the truth; firstly, there was no such an event as multi-party elections, nor was there the inclusion of youth or women if there was such; so whatever happened at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia in the name of transfer of power from President Edwin Barclay to William V. S. Tubman was more symbolic than democratic,” our source, who begged anonymity, asserted.