Interestingly a poverty-stricken state of Liberia is noted for history making and never in the 170-year of the nation’s existence that stakes in the past presidential races had captivated deep national and global interests with observers as being experienced in the recent October 10, 2017 presidential election which official outcomes remained unclear whether Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) flag-bearer, Senator George Weah and the incumbent vice president and Standard-bearer, Joseph N. Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP), would be able to eventually capture 50 percent plus one vote, the threshold to avoid a second round of voting in the country.
The space for a runoff is possible if none of the twenty candidates reach that threshold, the top two leading candidates, Senator Weah and Veep Boakai will advance to a runoff election scheduled for early November. But results of the Tuesday’s balloting have stunned greater number of the population’s anticipations considering the displayed of the unprecedented huge crowds that characterized this year’s presidential race.
Unlike past elections, this year’s presidential race was reduced to crowd race among the main political parties, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Unity Party (UP), Liberty Party (LP), Alternative National Congress (ANC) and All Liberian Party (ALP). Instead of maneuvering in order to undercut the other parties to win more votes, the various parties were preoccupied with pulling huge crowds in the various streets as a means of displaying their political authority over the others to prove that they have the numbers to win on the first ballot.
Most recently, the various streets were overwhelmed by mammoth crowds and displayed of numbers in Monrovia and other cities across the country, unfortunately, these gigantic crowds apparently driven by monetary gains or allegiance, failed to translate into actual votes on October 10 as evidenced of the official results of the presidential election released by NEC.
These results are far below the anticipation of political pundits. Consequently, the debate regarding which of the political party that had the biggest crowd remained a fantasy except for the CDC which can boast of numbers by evidence of the election results which put Senator Weah of the CDC ahead of UP’s Boakai with over 145,000 votes different (39.0% to 29.1%).
Otherwise Liberians also used the Tuesday’s elections to punish the political corrupt and egocentric bureaucrats, thus making Liberians and commentators to question the loyalty of the crowd. However, one of the twenty candidates is poised to replace President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, comes January 15, 2018. The first in 73 years that for a smooth transition of state power from one democratically elected leader to another driven by the majority votes of the highest ballots obtained under a constitutional democracy.
The new dynamic of crowd rivalry into the Liberian political space was an issue of debate as to which party that had the numbers over the other parties to clinch victory in the first round of balloting. All the political parties were mainly focused on producing numbers in the various streets and sports stadiums across the country instead of making the October 10 presidential election issue based.
The issue of crowd competition took the electoral exercise to a new level, as one party overwhelmed other with mammoth crowd. On one occasion, the CDC projected of having the numbers and claimed to have pulled two million people on the streets and locked down the city although, according to NEC, the registered voters in the October 10 general elections is 2.1 million people. The CDC two million-man march was disputed by CDC’s rival-UP.
Few weeks later, the Liberty Party came all out in green color and claimed that it had brought over two-hundred thousand in the street to launch its official campaign while the ALP also flexed its political muscles by pulling huge crowd in the streets of Monrovia and Antoinette Tubman Sport Stadium, but the numbers were disputed by the ALP and LP’s rivals.
In order to dispute the gigantic multitudes produced by CDC, LP and ALP, the ruling UP went all out into the various surroundings and institutions of government to overwhelm the principal streets of Monrovia and its environs with mammoth crowds, projecting to have the numbers over its rivals, the rest of the political parties.
The ruling UP boasted that the numbers of turnout was the biggest multitude any political party had ever produced in the history of Liberia. The UP’s crowd chanted a slogan: “Our Ma (Johnson-Sirleaf) spoiled it, Our Pa (Boakai) will fix it”, an apparent outburst at President Johnson-Sirleaf by the party she once headed as the political leader.
But historians disputed the UP’s claims, saying that the arrival of Charles Taylor in Monrovia in the late ‘90s was a record breaking crowd with a song: You kill my Ma, You kill my Pa I will vote for you. The UP boasted that with the numbers that came out in the party’s colors victory was confirmed, but the numbers were disputed by the CDC and ANC followed the displayed of counter-crowds showcase which overwhelmed Monrovia and its surroundings.
In recent time, likeability of these candidates has taken a dramatic turn; they have been drawing huge crowds, congregating to these political parties gathering, portraying lavished t-shirts and expensive placards across the country and street corners, while radio stations’ broadcasts were engulfed with pro and anti- songs, jingles, and messages all attended the campaign trails; the same goes as the various daily publications’ pages of newspapers from the front-page-banner headlines to the captions on the back pages again, depicting pro and anti-stories in favor or against a particular candidates.
The Tuesday’s election was a defining chapter in the life of UP’s Joseph Boakai ; CDC’s George Weah, LP’s Charles Brumskine, ANC’s Alexander Cummings, ALP’s Urey, MOVEE’s Jones and the rest of the other presidential candidates who performed far below the expectations of the population especially their supporters and partisans.
Political pundits were wondering if the Tuesday’s poll was to be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or to perpetually keep the dynasty of the UP. But the elections’ results appeared to be a referendum on the ruling UP even though votes are still being counted; the CDC is far ahead of the UP and other parties. Now, the question is: Will Senator Weah hold on to his lead to retire UP’s Joseph Boakai or will the UP candidate undercut the CDC’s flag-bearer to clinch victory?
Without doubt, the elections results are apparently favoring the candidate that come with the reservoir of ideas and the inspiration to play on the emotions and frustration of the voting population, one who made the October10 presidential election people-centered; one who was forceful on issues affecting bulks of the needy populace.
However, in any situation, the runoff will be an interesting exercise, as Senator Weah has undergone a distinct alteration in his campaign- a tactical shift and a calculated uphill campaign to replace President Johnson-Sirleaf while the Boakai who is far behind Weah is being portrayed as the best option for the president.
Many are of the conviction that the runoff between CDC and UP, the king-makers in the process would be Brumskine, Cummings, Senator Johnson, Urey and Jones. But the question is which of the two—CDC and UP, will these political heavyweights give their supports? Will they keep the UP’s longevity for additional six years by extension 18-year rule or will they go for an opposition win over the ruling party?
According to some political analysts, Senator Johnson will go toward supporting UP’s Boakai on grounds that of late he (PYJ) and Weah have been at loggerheads, with both attacking each other. In 2005 runoff election, Senator Johnson supported Senator Weah over President Johnson-Sirleaf. Despite Senator Johnson’s support towards CDC’s Weah, President Johnson-Sirleaf won Nimba with huge votes while in 2011 Presidential elections, Senator Johnson switched support to Presidential Sirleaf in the runoff over CDC’s Tubman although the CDC withdrew from the runoff.
However, political observers and commentators are of the conviction that the rest of the political heavyweights including Brumskine, Cummings, Urey and Jones might encourage their followers and partisans to CDC’s Weah over UP’s Boakai.
According to international commentators, the recent accusation between the LP and UP over President Sirleaf’s reported support to LP’s Brumskine is not helpful for the UP’s Boakai on grounds that the LP might want to punish the Boakai camp for the accusation.
Regarding the ALP’s Urey, cynics argued that as once an official of the CDC, the ALP flag-bearer and the CDC might melt their differences and would support the CDC in the runoff while for Dr. Mill Jones is predicted that he is likely to choice CDC’s Weah over UP’s Boakai on grounds that the MOVEE’s standard-bearer, prior to the elections accused the ruling UP’s top brass of trying to deny him from participating in the October 10 presidential election through the implementation of the code of conduct prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court.
For the ANC’s Cummings, it unknown which of the side will he support and the true is he is very close to the ears of President Sirleaf. Cummings’ running mate was once a senior official of UP but managed to cross-carpet since he would not be considered as Boakai’s number two on the party’s ticket.
But with the current demography of the electoral map where the nation has voted on regional line, the question is, will the ANC’s Cummings abandon the southeastern region son, Senator George Weah who hailed from SassTown in Grand Kru County, the neighbor of Maryland County where the ANC’s flag-bearer hailed.
Will Cummings go towards the Northern region’s son Joseph Boaki who hailed from Foya, Lofa County to encourage his supporters and followers to support Boakai considering the fact that he obtained more votes in the Southeast region than Northern region?
What will happen in the future if Cummings attempts to contest for any elected post in future be it senatorial and presidential, will the people of the Southeastern region forgive him or punish him if he does not support the region’s candidate in the runoff?
In any situation, Cummings faces a serious dilemma but let us not forget, there is no fair play in politics. Besides, the organizers of ANC are former officials of CDC who broke away for personal reasons, it is unknown whether they will go towards their former party CDC or go towards the ruling UP.
Political pundits are optimistic that the manner in which the voters cast their ballots wouldn’t experience much changes, as voters are expected to vote on regional and ethnic lines and predicts that whosoever picks up huge votes in Montserrado, Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties will clinch victory, starting with CDC’s Weah could stand a better chance considering the electoral demography.
Despite the Unity Party’s obvious twelve years have been marked with frustration which posed a serious challenging task to overcome in the runoff poll; this situation is compounded by the UP’s own in-house unfavorable political situation-where it appeared that there is deep existing bad blood between the party’s former standard-bearer and current leadership. But the question still remains: can Boakai win without the steady support of President Sirleaf?
In a poor country like Liberia, politicians know how to play on vulnerability of poverty stricken electorates most of whom have no means of livelihood; these politicians take advantage of poor electorates’ weaknesses and their hardships in life. That is why even when the act is illegal and unlawful, like selling votes; they instantly resort to it to easily come up with a solution to their problem, like poverty.
The winner of the runoff will face a task of removing greater number of poverty-stricken messes from abject poverty to a new level of appreciative livelihood, one that will momentously improve the provisional basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads across the country, safe-drinking water for a majority of the population, reduce the massive unemployment and create jobs, ensure quality education and available and affordable health care among other necessities of human needs.
But can these essential necessities be visible in the absence of placing state authority in the hands of a leader-one who lacks the political will to conclusively combat corruption and cannot commend greater respect from the population? Some of these prime concerns include lack of quality education and improved healthcare delivery system, growing poverty, destitution and hard cost of living, corruption, lack of justice for the poor and rule of law for all, lack of decentralized development, economic viability and empowerment of the poor, security for all including the reduction of high prices of basic commodities and merchandises. By: Josephus Moses Gray/ Email: email@example.com
About the Author: Josephus Moses Gbala-hinnih Gray is an Assistant Professor at the University of Liberia Graduate School. He is a native born Liberian, hails from the Southeastern village of Kayken Chiefdom in Barclayville, Grand Kru County. He is an author, professor, journalist, diplomat and scholar with a wealth of rich credentials. He once worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs as Programs Coordinator and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia as Assistant Minister for Public Affairs and later undertook oversea diplomatic post at the Embassy of Liberia in Paris with distinction as a Political Counselor and later appointed as Master Counselor to Geneva at Liberian Permanent to the UN and International Organizations. He is a graduate of the USA ICFA Global Journalism Program in Washington D.C., USA; he further holds post-graduate diplomas and certificates in International Relations , Journalism, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy Studies, Public Policy, Peace Studies, Digital Media, Conflict Management and Analysis, Project Management and Development Communications, from the United States of America, France, Netherlands, China, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Liberia. He has authored two books, published Two Graduate Studies Theses and a 600-page Doctoral Dissertation on the theme: “Geopolitics of African Oil and Energy: China and America New Strategic Interests in Africa”. He has written extensively and published over 45 articles on variety of contemporary issues. He can be contacted at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org