A year in Liberia, West Africa

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Election fever hits town...

Only 28 days before election day...

The election campaign to elect Liberia's President and members of Parliament officially started on 15 August. Elections are scheduled to take place on 11 October and the country will be asked to choose among 22 presidential candidates. The three main contenders are:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf - a former Finance Minister in the William Tolbert government that was toppled by a coup instigated by Samuel Doe in 1980. She was prosecuted for treason and served time in prison. She went into exile in 1985 and during this time worked for a number of financial institutions and later the UNDP. She is standing as candidate for the Unity Party. She previously stood in the 1997 elections in which she came a distant second behind Charles Taylor. The Liberians that I have spoken to consider her to have "dirty hands" because of the part she reportedly played in helping Charles Taylor come to power by assisting in the raising of funds from expatriate Liberians (see The Daily Observer, 23 April 2005).

Varney Sherman - a former corporate lawyer and founding partner of Sherman & Sherman, one of Liberia's largest commercial law firms. He is standing as candidate for the Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia (COTOL, a coalition of four parties including his own, the Liberia Action Party). He is also considered by Liberians to have "dirty hands" through his representation of Bong Mines, an iron ore mining company in its dispute with former employees layed off when civil war erupted. Although the company agreed a settlement with its employees, Sherman is alleged to have sipphoned off some of the money earmarked for paying off the former mine workers as part of the settlement (see The Inquirer, 22 August 2005).

George Weah - a former acclaimed footballer who won the coveted "FIFA World Player of the Year" award in 1995. He has also been an active campaigner and was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1997. He is a new entrant on the Liberian political scene and is standing as candidate for the Congress for Democratic Change. Although his right to stand for the presidential elections was challenged before the Supreme Court on the basis that he held dual French and Liberian nationality, the Court held that there was insufficient evidence to consider that he held dual citizenship. He is seen by many Liberians as the only candidate with "clean hands" who can represent the interests of the disenfranchised illiterate classes (see The Perspective, 25 August 2005), but his chances as a candidate are hampered by his lack of experience in the political arena.

The other candidates include:

Charles Brumskine - a politician and former Deputy Head of the Senate under the former party of Charles Taylor now in exile in Calabar, Nigeria.. He is standing as candidate for the Liberty Party.

Nathaniel Barnes - a former Finance Minister under Charles Taylor. He is standing as candidate for the Liberian Destiny Party.

Sekou Conneh - former leader of the main rebel movement Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). He is standing for the Progress Democratic Party.

Alhaji Kromah - who previously led the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), one of the key rebel groups during the civil war. He came third in the 1997 elections behind Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. He is the candidate for the All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP).

Roland Massaquoi - a former Agriculture Minister under Charles Taylor, who later became Minister for Planning and Economic Affairs. He is standing as candidate for the National Patriotic Party, Charles Taylor's formed party.

Winston Tubman - nephew of former president Wiliam Tubman, who is standing as candidate for the National Democratic Party of Liberia.

Reference materials:
Liberia 2005 website - List of Presidential Candidates
Liberian National Elections Commission -
Guidelines Relating to Coalitions & Alliances 2005
IFES - Electoral Planning & Assessment Mission Report 2004
Report on Liberian NEC 2005
Liberian Elections 2005 Overview
EU Election Observation Mission - EU EOM website

Wikipedia - Politics of Liberia


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