At long last the race for the Presidency which saw 20 candidates competing in the 10 October first round of polling has narrowed down to two contenders: Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC and incumbent Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the ruling Unity Party or UP.
With the results now official, questions abound as to which way the remaining 18 candidates will be headed. Liberian politics is more of an individual than ideas, thus leaving commentators and journalists guessing.
The National Elections Commission on Thursday, 19 October released final results of last Tuesday’s presidential poll with Weah of the CDC obtaining 38.4 percent of the total votes cast from all 5,380 polling places and Vice President Boakai of the UP receiving 28.8 percent, among a total of 20 candidates, which automatically qualifies them for a run-off in November.
The two parties have maintained this runner-up position in three presidential elections since 2005 with the CDC twice losing to Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. This time around, it is poised to instead, face her Vice President in November’s runoff. In order to win the poll, a candidate is constitutionally required to obtain 50 percent plus one of the total ballots cast across the country.
Political analysts say the real fight for the Executive Mansion has just started as both parties in the runoff would need support from the remaining 18 candidates no matter how small to get elected.
The Standard Bearer of the United People’s Party (UPP) recently gave his support to the CDC, but that pledge was strongly resisted by some executives of the party, including Dr. T. Q. Harris and Mr. Blamo Nelson, explained that the UPP has reached no definite decision on the matter.
The New Dawn periscopes the candidates that did not make it to the runoff, particularly the most outstanding three among them (Brumskine, Cummings and Johnson) to analyze which side each of them may likely pledge support and for what reasons in a heavily regionalized and tribal political contest.
The Liberty Party of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, Alternative National Congress of Coca Cola former executive Alexander B. Cummings and Senator Prince Yormie Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction are key determinants in who becomes Liberia’s 25th President for the next six years.
All three are publicly supportive of change and an opposition victory. But the opposition bloc had never been convincingly committed to galvanizing a united front to achieving this as demonstrated by the collapse of the Nimba Declaration which they signed up to prior to the 10 October polls.
Cllr. Brumskine of the LP is navigating between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s marauding army. He would not commit suicide or give his votes to the ruling UP, and is likely to settle things out with the CDC in order to lend his support, if he truly wants to see an opposition victory on 7 November.
In 2011, Weah and Brumskine attempted collaborating but that did not work out and each person eventually went their way. Both parties are perhaps still nursing their fresh wounds from the 20 September bloody clash in Sanniquellie, Nimba County which reportedly left two partisans of the LP stabbed and subsequently admitted in hospital.
On the other hand, the ANC, an offspring of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) is seriously reading the political calculus in determining which way to go. Its leader Alexander Cummings says whoever wins the presidency, he would not take a job in government, but stands firm on principles that he wants to see implemented to move the country forward.
Despite his debut on the Liberian political landscape, he gained voters’ attention and admiration following his positive ratings from the two presidential debates held before the first round of election. His best choice could be returning the ANC to its mother organization, as its founding chairman, Orishall Gould, is also founding chairman of the CDC, but parted company with party after the 2011 convention held in Tubmanburg, Bomi County when the so-called Sabu Unit, a group of party thugs allegedly chased him away from the convention center.
The ANC giving support to the governing Unity Party could be a betrayal of opposition trust and the party’s quest to effect its “Real change that you can trust” slogan that it had campaigned on.
Senator Prince Yormie Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) could again become a kingmaker like he did during the 2011 runoff between the two parties when he gave his support to Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whom he described as “lesser of two evils”.
For sure, no one can clearly predict where the unpredictable senator would lend his support as he holds the vital key to his native Nimba County, which has the highest number of registered voters after Montserrado.
According to the final results from NEC, Sen. Johnson obtains 53.5percent of the total votes cast in his native Nimba County, followed by UP’s Boakai 19.9 percent, and Weah’s Coalition 8.0 percent, respectively.
Montserrado County has the highest number of registrants (777,503 voters) followed by Nimba County with 279,572 and Bong County, 208,150.
Weah commands the highest votes in Montserrado (48.9 percent) while Boakai leads in his native Lofa County with 78.5 percent.
But for certainty, any of the two candidates desirous of winning the runoff cannot afford to ignore LP’s Charles Brumskine with 149,495 votes followed by MDR’s. Prince Johnson, 127,666 votes and ANC’s Cummings with 112,067 votes followed by the rest.
By Jonathan Browne