-Unmasking George Weah’s2014 Election Numbers
When the Congress for Democratic Change endorsed it’s political leader and first partisan, former soccer star turned politician George Weah to contest the Montserrado Senatorial Election, many including strong critics of Weah expected an easy victory. This was due in parts because the Montserrado electoral contours had long been drawn by the CDC, with sweeping legislative victories in two successive Legislative elections and a number of by-elections in the county.
Historically, CDC has never lost Montserrado except for a few legislative seats won in areas they failed to field candidates and in those that had formidable name brand. On the whole, the elections had been but a ceremonial procession for CDC Montserrado candidates. Nonetheless, the electorates had not been kind in other parts of the country to the effect that over 95% of CDC lawmakers in the House of Representatives are from Montserrado, with just one seat secured in Gbarpolu county.
The case is no different in the Senate, where the CDC has been outnumbered over the last two electoral cycles. On account of the recent Senatorial elections, CDC, the main opposition party will have a measly 11 lawmaking seats from a possible 103 seats across both houses, representing roughly 10% of all seats.
The party needed and anticipated a rebound counting on mounting public dissatisfaction with the government and the general direction of the country. In Montserrado, the strategy was to energize the base and ensure the CDC faithful turn out in the numbers to send a clear statement to the government, whereas in the other counties, it was to be the beginning of a paradigm shift, where the party would see its popularity and appeal soar across the rest of the country.
But when the National Elections Commission or NEC announced a turnout of 25% nationally, with Montserrado (the CDC perceived stronghold) accumulating 20% turnout followed by Margibi at 20.7%, it was clear the political legitimacy question would hang over the eventual winners.
In a county generally regarded as a CDC stronghold, with its torchbearer enjoying celebrity status and himself contesting on the Party ticket, turnout was expected to be boosted.
Putting the turnout into context, more people turnout in 2009 (105,000) when Doe-Sheriff then of the CDC contested against Clemenceau Urey of the Unity Party than in 2014 (97,000). While Weah might have won by a whopping majority, the very low number of votes accrue is not a pleasant news for the CDC in their 2017 bid.
Critics have long argued that the CDC is largely a Grand Gedeh and Montserrado County party, motivated by a sub-urban poverty driven political agenda that appeal mainly to residents of Monrovia slums and impoverished communities. They are also widely considered to have no national appeal and the 2014 was an opportunity to dispel that notion.
On account of the Montserrado results, which analysts have blamed to the Ebola crisis, the size of the turnout in a place so entrenched with CDC sentiments also suggest the party might be losing some appeal, especially giving the fame status of its standard-bearer in the county.
With more than 650,000 registered voters in Montserrado, less than 40% (207,000) of the total number of voters voting the CDC in the last Presidential elections, voted in 2014 elections. Some critics had predicted that the CDC and its iconic standard-bearer George Weah would have energized his following to turned out in drove in sending a loud and clear message
Others share the believe that the results particularly in Montserrado was a rejection of the President’s son than of the Unity Party, as the party still won four other seats to CDC two across the country.
As one voter told New Dawn in an exit poll “we cannot elect the president’s son as senator for Montserrado. Electing him may be a tacit endorsement of the work of his mother as well as a signal that we may be entertaining the thought of him replacing his mother in 2017”.
Kimmie Taylor of Citizens Youth Movement for Democracy said electing Robert Sirleaf over Weah “will give him a political life that propels him as a major candidate in 2017. It is inarguable that anyone who winsWeah in Montserrado is definitely a potent political force and would be insane if they did not contest for the presidency in 2017. On the basis of this, we decided as an institution to campaign against Robert Alvin Sirleaf”.
On the balance of the turnout, especially with Unity Party effectively urging its partisans to boycott the polls, it seems while the voters were not ready and prepared to elect the president’s son, they were equally reluctant to provide legitimacy to George Weah mandate- a mandate that he could be mistaken as an endorsement for 2017.
Solomon Reeves of Browerville intimated “The voters clearly believed George Weah and his CDC have proven to be less than a responsible political institution and will not be able to govern. For this, many voters were not excited about electing George Weah and therefore did not turn out in mass.”
As the 2017 beckons, the million dollar question remains. Is CDC popular enough to win the Executive Mansion? The 2014 election results shows clearly that the field is wide open and that authentic leadership, through a broad coalition, could rise to fill the leadership void that will be created when Unity Party leaves office in 2017. It appears time and missteps have hurt the CDC brand and the party doesn’t really seem the alternative governing arrangement that the country is seeking in the post-2017 administration.