The stupendous turnout of partisans for the launch of the Unity Party campaign in Monrovia last Saturday sparked debates among political observers throughout the nation about the likelihood that a presidential candidate can pull off a first round victory in the October 10 elections – aborting a runoff for the first time in 12 years.
The debates have involved many views, both national and international, as the the turnouts of thousands of partisans of various presidential candidates took center stage on the streets of Monrovia and other cities during their respective campaign launches. Each of the party launches in Monrovia to date have vied for bragging rights that its partisan turnout “locked down Monrovia.” Those bragging rights were exclusively owned by CDC, now Coalition for Democratic Change – until Saturday, September 16 dawned and under a punishing torrential rainfall, UP partisans showed up in the tens of thousands (some say) and indisputably brought Monrovia to a standstill. The astonishing UP turnout, many exclaimed, had never been seen in Liberia’s political history and reportedly brought the clearly overwhelmed Standard Bearer, Joseph N. Boakai, to tears.
The two-pronged approach of the march of partisans on foot, on floats and on jam packed buses and trucks to the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) was undeniably strategic and impressive, however inconveniencing to the rest of the public. No figures have emerged so far as to the actual crowd size, but the magnitude of UP partisans was massive.
Critics, however, are arguing that “numbers or turnouts during launches are not reliable factors for winning an election.”
According to the National Elections Commission (NEC), a second round is held when no presidential candidate secures more than 50 percent of the votes cast. With the two dozen or so presidential candidate vying for the votes of just over two million eligible voters, a 51 percent landslide is difficult to imagine, but not impossible.
The two front-runners will return to the polls and voters will choose their favorite within 30 days of the first election. In order to win the first round and avoid a second round, a presidential candidate must earn a little over 50% of the 2,026,426 votes.
The standard-bearer of the ruling Unity Party (UP), Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, said during the recent presidential debate, that a second round is unlikely. Some executives of the UP declared that Saturday’s launch at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium showed their mighty strength with the turnout of a “tsunami” of partisans, which they believe was a clear indication of a first-round victory. It means that the UP is certain of accumulating 1.1 million or more votes across the country on October 10, making it the party’s first one-round victory in a presidential election since its inception in 1997.
Prior to the coalition – (the Coalition for Democratic Change) – the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) for the last two presidential elections has been regarded as the primary opposition party. They emerged runner-up in 2005 and 2011.
Some stalwarts believe that the “merger” of the three political parties – the CDC, National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP), indicates that there is no way for a second, meaning they too might win the first round. The Coalition’s standard bearer, Sen. George M. Weah, said: “Hope is alive because we will win in one round.”
The Liberty Party (LP) of Charles W. Brumskine is the second main opposition party. They too showed the strength of their numbers during their campaign launch on Saturday, September 9. The LP is on record of boasting that it will replace the UP and be tied with the CDC for a second round. Cllr. Brumskine has never ruled out a second round. He said the UP has failed miserably, and Liberians will prove their frustration at the polls.
The LP’s vice standard bearer, Harrison Karnwea, promised to split vote-rich Nimba County and the Southeast.
“I will disprove conventional wisdom and win the presidency in the first round,” Mr. Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) has said.
The corporate businessman now virgin politician has said that he is the most qualified candidate to lead the country and deliver it from the grips of a bad economy.
Launching his campaign in Harper, Maryland County, which brought together the five southeastern counties, Cummings made his case and assured Liberians that they can trust his change.
Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) standard bearer, Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, has indicated that history is on his side, claiming that he has the track record more than any other political candidate, pointing to his tenure as Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia as proof of what he is capable of doing.
Noted for insisting that ‘poverty is not Liberians’ destiny’ in the wake of thousands of Liberians being weighed down by economic and other hardships, his financial inclusion policy, his supporters say, is a record that has no rivals, and therefore Jones deserves to be heard and may likely be hoping that a one-round victory is his to lose.
ALP and others
Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP), Sen. Prince Y. Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) as well as the other 13 presidential candidates are also working their way into the hearts and minds of the electorate. Urey is determined to ensure that another political party, not the Unity Party, becomes victorious on October 10. Of course, opinion polls have given no indication that any of the political parties will win the first round.
Arguably, no one has the votes to win in the first round. Undecided or unsure citizens not voting, as well as low turn-out, are all taken into account to determine that a second round is highly likely.