By Gideon Nma Scott, Jr.
In five days from today, Liberians will, again, gather at the polls to elect the 25th president of the Republic. It could either be incumbent George Weah or his fiercest rival, Amb. Joseph Boakai. But the question remains, “WHO IS LIBERIA’S NEXT PRESIDENT?”
On October 24, 2023, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced the opening of campaign activities for the November 14 run-off election between President George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and former Vice president Joseph Boakai of the opposition Unity Party (UP). The two parties obtained the highest votes, following the October 10 Legislative and Presidential Elections.
In the October polls, President Weah of the CDC obtained 804,087 votes, constituting 43.83 percent, while Amb. Boakai obtained 796,961, which constituted 43.44 percent, though none of the parties was able to obtain the constituted 50 percent plus one vote to win the election on the first ballot.
Article 83 (b) states, “All elections of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second ballot shall be conducted on the second Tuesday following. The two candidates who received the greatest numbers of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the runoff election.”
Announcing the results at a press conference in the James Flomoyan Conference Hall at the National Elections Commission, Madam Davidetta Brown Lansanah called on the two highest contenders in the just ended election to immediately begin campaign activities, ahead of the November 14 run-off election. She thanked all Liberians for the turnout in the first round and encouraged them to come out and vote the candidate of their choice.
But the debate on who becomes the next president of Liberia continues, as partisans from across the political aisle are making the case of the parties and political leaders on why one should vote for them and not the other.
Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia says, “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The president shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.” This is the authority that these two men are asking Liberians to use their power in Article 1 to confer on them
It is anticipated that following the long-awaited November 14 run-off, Liberians will decide between the two statesmen on who will ascend to the Presidency, and the political noise and euphoria will cease for the time being.
President Weah is campaigning on the slogan, “Change You Can Hope On,” outlining his government’s many development initiatives across the country. He is making the case that he is the first President in the history of Liberia to carry out major infrastructural development, including road pavements, the construction of more hospitals, and other health facilities, schools, the payment of WAEC fees for secondary public-school students, free tuition for all government universities, promoting agriculture and forestry development, among others.
Weah is asking for another six year to complete projects in the interest of the Liberian people; that’s according to him. He has also promised to increase civil servants’ salaries, provide capacity building activities and youth empowerment programs, put chiefs on payroll, more institutional and infrastructure development, and will lift the average Liberian from poverty.
But across the aisle, the opposition Unity Party is campaigning on the “Agriculture, Road, Education, Sanitation and Tourism (AREST)” slogan, and has promised to reinstitute measures that will regain Liberia’s image in the comity of nations, initiate agriculture programs that will help farmers to go into mechanized farming, build farm-to-market roads, and rehabilitate damaged roads, complete the Ganta-Harper Highway project that will connect the Southeast to the rest of the country, complete the Manicoma road to Lofa, increase civil servants’ salary that was harmonized by the Weah-led government, and train and deploy more teachers and health workers across the country.
The opposition has forever criticized President Weah and his CDC-led government for alleged extra judicial and ritualistic killings, the deaths of five auditors, the three missing boys from the St. Moses Funeral Parlors, the harmonization of civil servants’ salaries, the importation and distribution of illegal and narcotic drugs among the youthful population, and bringing untold suffering to the Liberian people in just under six years.
UP also accused Mr. Weah and some of his officials of extravagant spending through the construction of over 30 condominiums, the purchase of a US$500,000 vehicle, the alleged 1.3m palace in South Africa, huge spending of State resources, to the detriment of the masses, among others.
In contrast to these allegations, the CDC accused Mr. Boakai, who served as Vice president under President Ellen Sirleaf, of admitting to squandering opportunities that would have lifted thousands of Liberians out of poverty, and that the Sirleaf-Boakai regime only benefited a few elites.
Howbeit, Liberians will exercise the power that is inherent in them, as enshrined in Article 1, paragraph 1 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, to decide on who can better serve their interest on November 14, 2023, in the run-off. The above mentioned constitutional instrument says, “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require.”
The essence of democracy is free competition of ideas expressed by political parties and political groups, as well as by individuals, parties may freely be established to advocate the political opinions of the people.
It is my ardent hope that as we are being empowered by our Constitution, we will be allowed to express our political ideas and boldly speak power to whomever we choose to lead us as a people.
We are calling on the National Elections Commission to ensure that our voices are heard through the ballot box, in a process that must be credible by all international election standards, where the voices of the people will be heard loudly and clearly.
We are also calling on the two political rivals to create a level playing field, void of intimidation of voters and violence, because this field is set, and any infringement by either of the two, be it through their players, captains, or the coaches, there could be a momentary standstill and that may not only kill the appetite of the outcome, but defer the timeline for the game to end.
Lest I forget, to us voters, the endnote of choices impacts destinies and even today, whatever we feel as a nation is as a result of the choice we made since 2017, and the next six years could be no mystical era but a result of our votes cast on November 14.
*The thought of the son of a Professional Kru Woman