Official campaign for the October 10th Presidential and Representatives elections kicks off here on Monday, 31 July with candidates and political parties erecting billboards and posters at street corners in Monrovia and its environs.
In a nationwide address on Monday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf describes the start of official campaign across Liberia for the October polls as a test of the maturity of Liberian political leaders and citizens working to make the right choice at the ballot box.
She says the 2017 elections will signal Liberia’s irreversible course on the path of peace and democracy, noting “this is the first general elections organized by us, conducted by us, and therefore all ours.”
However, she cautions that as the campaign develops, political actors should strive to focus their discussions on the bigger issues and challenges of confronting the society by being clear on the kind of country they envisage for themselves and posterity.
“We must seek to inform and enlighten the electorate, treat each other with respect and clarify choices, while sustaining our electoral environmental free of violence and conflicts”, says President Sirleaf, who is ending two (six years) terms in office by October.
There were reports of some zealot partisans tearing down campaign posters of rival parties, while a guard of Presidential candidate Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party allegedly tussled with a police officer in the Du-Port Road community of Paynesville.
A total of 26 registered parties are participating in the impending elections without the incumbent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf contesting. The pending polls will deliver the first post-conflict political transition in Liberia after nearly two decades of bloody civil conflict.
President Sirleaf’s governing Unity Party, currently headed by Vice President Joseph Boakai, is seeking a third term in office against nearly two dozen opposition parties.
Members of the opposition bloc seem determined to halt the ruling UP third bid as demonstrated by ongoing massive preparations for the campaign.
The Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC led by Senators George Manneh Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor, estranged wife of jailed ex-president Charles Ghankay Taylor.
Its standard bearer Senator Weah had confirmed here following media reports that he held telephone conversation with Mr. Taylor from his prison wall in Britain. That was about three months to the campaign, and since then he has been mobilizing campaign resources.
The Coalition, which is a conglomeration of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, ex-president Taylor’s former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) and criminally indicted former speaker Alex Tyler’s newly organized Liberian People Democratic Party or LPDP is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to take state power in October.
The CDC has mobilized a logistical arsenal for the campaign, including an air plane said to have been brought in from Burkina Faso, while awaiting a helicopter from the same. However, others say it from France, the first ever since Weah entered Liberian politics in 2005.
Burkina Faso, like neighboring Ivory Coast provided strong support for Taylor’s invasion of Liberia, including fighting men. The CDC also recently acquired fleet of Nissan Patrol Jeeps, characteristic of Mr. Taylor besides motorbikes.
At the same time, the opposition Liberty Party of two times contender Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine seems equally prepared with hundreds of twin-cabin pickups and motorbikes for the campaign. The LP had vowed to outspend all parties in the race for the October polls.
Others in the race, including the ALP of businessman Benoni Urey, MOVEE for ex-governor Joseph Mills Jones, ANC of cocao-cola executive Alexander Cummings are equally determined to attract the votes of Liberians for the nation’s highest seat. Story by Jonathan Browne