By: Josephus Moses Gray| Email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
Never in the history of Liberia’s 170-year of existence had the stake in the Liberty Party’s uncompromising legal challenge of the October 10 presidential ballot attracted deep national and international concerns by the nation’s development partners and friendly countries emphasizing a smooth legitimate transfer of power from one democratically elected leader to another next January, a key test of stability and lasting peace in the country. But what does the future hold for Liberia if the pending landmark judgment of the full bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia for the third time in succession favors the Brumskine’s Liberty Party? Charles Brumskine who is seeking a re-run of the election on the allegation of fraud and irregularities is the third-place finisher in the October 10 general elections.
The present legal situation obtaining in the country unequivocally places the fate of Liberia’s peace and future in the hands of the Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court to deliver a landmark ruling that will prevent potential constitutional crisis and the planned purported interim government. From my candid opinion, only the Supreme Court can save the nation’s emerging democracy since that Court is the final arbiter of justice. I have no doubts that the Supreme Court’s final opinion on the LP’s legal challenge will unite the entire nation and not to divide the population.
The recent European Union, Security Council and the United States Government’s strong position on the LP’s legal challenge arising from the October 10 presidential election will somehow give the Full Bench of the Supreme Court another reason to hand down its landmark ruling. Although others have argued that Liberia is a sovereign state and as such the nation cannot be remotely controlled.
They all might be right but let me state my disagreement on grounds that Liberia as a member of the United Nations and signatory to international instruments, the state has surrounded part of its sovereign and the issue of sovereignty cannot be used as argument. Therefore, based on these international maneuverings in the diplomatic corridors, the Supreme Court, in my opinion will rule against the LP /UP legal challenge; this will pave the way for the runoff election.
The issue of elections’ irregularities and fraud are not inimical to Liberia; such have been major problems that continued to affect democracies across the world. Most of the elections around the world have been characterized by cases of rigging and fraud. Vote rigging is the process of interfering with the elections either to win as a candidate or to make an opponent lose. Rigging involves increasing the vote share of the preferred candidate or reducing the votes of the opponent. Countries have different laws governing the election process and violation or contravening such laws usually amount to rigging or electoral fraud.
For instance, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified on Friday the re-election of a sitting president, ordering a new vote to be held within 60 days after finding that the outcome last month had been tainted by irregularities.
History is very vivid on elections’ hullabaloos of allegations, accusations specifically driven by mistrust and confidence crises which with all due respect for honor, decency and sustained kudos of civilization; and the survivability of the tenets of democracy, had to knock on the doors of the courts in countries like Ghana and twice in the great and almighty United States of America between Al Gore and George W. Bush.
And now with the looming and simmering scar on the Donald Trump’s victory over Hilary Clinton heavily accused of Russian connection which allegedly infiltrated the United States of America’s electoral system via cyber high tech in favor of Trump; which up to present, besides ongoing robust investigation into the political fiasco; both governments continue to institute the “cold war” vendetta of Tip for Tap; as the rest of the world listens and looks on keenly for result that must be showcased in the land of the champion of democracy.
According to research, the most rigged and corrupt elections in modern world history amount to thousand since the introduction of democracy across the modern world. Some of the rigged and corrupt elections include Romanian General Elections of 1946 held on 19th November with the official result giving victory to the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) and its allies inside the BPD. BPD also won the majority of the seats in the parliament (348). However, political commentators accused the BPD of winning through intimidation tactics and electoral malpractices. Many researchers claimed that the party won with 48% and not 80% as it claimed and it did not meet the requirement to form the government.
The Uganda’s first multi-party election was held on February 23, 2006. The incumbent President, Yoweri Museveni, ran for a re-election on a National Resistance Movement (NRM) with his main opponent, Kizza Besigye running on Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). With four months to elections, Besigye was arrested on an allegation of treason. The arrest led to violence and riot across Uganda. Museveni won the election with 59% of the votes while Besigye garnered 37%. NRM, Museveni’s party, also won the majority of seats in the parliamentary elections.
Interestingly, it can be recalled that a week to the runoff presidential poll, the Supreme Court ordered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to stay any and all actions in the pending runoff election scheduled which was planned for November 7 in line with the Writ for Prohibition prayed for by the Liberty Party.
The LP is seeking a rerun of the October 10 elections, which the party alleged were stained by fraud and irregularities reportedly committed by the elections commission. But the Board of Commissioners of NEC last Friday also sustained last Tuesday’s ruling of its Hearing Officer, Muana Ville who has dismissed the complaints of fraud and irregularities filed by the Liberty Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Charles Brumskine, for what he termed as “lack of evidence” in the October 10 presidential votes.
In his legal challenge, the LP’s flag-bearer alleged that the elections were faced with “serious gross irregularities and fraud that put a dent on the integrity of the process including denying voters their legitimate rights to vote. He propounded that the LP’s evidences range from reported stuffing of ballot boxes with marked ballot papers for another party than the LP in Nimba County by NEC’s presiding officer. He also named the late opening of polls at some centers; and the omission of names and photographs from the voters’ roll and the over-calculation of a particular party’s valid votes claims which have been vehemently denied by NEC board.
According to NEC’s authorities, the Supreme Court has defined fraud as the employment of trick, artifice or deception to cheat or mislead another; and said it is not sufficient to merely allege fraud as a basis for relief, saying it must be established by proof.
But if the Supreme Court rules against the LP and the runoff is to be held, who will win? Will it be incumbent Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the reigning Unity Party (UP) or Senator George M. Weah of the main opposition Coalition for Democratic Change CDC? The question is will Liberians vote for Continuity by voting into power for third the era in succession of UP’s led-government or go for an opposite to vote for Change to retire the UP’s administration and vote into power the CDC?
The showdown for the runoff is expected to produce aggressive political fireworks and keep the entire population entertains with political rhetoric and impracticable promise; candidate who will deeply articulate his policies and play on the emotions of the electorates stands a better chance of being elected.
One of the two candidates- Boakai or Weah will be inaugurated as 24th president to replace President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who has successfully served two-term. This is the third traditional round scenario in successions that the CDC and UP are facing up in a runoff ballot in twelve years. But the question still remains: can Boakai win without the steady support of President Sirleaf? Yet many are wondering whether President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s factors will be an added advantage or disadvantage for the Boakai’s ticket?
Will voters use the pending runoff to punish the ruling UP or keep the ruling party’s longevity for additional 18 years and punish the opposition CDC for a third time or this time around reward the CDC? From all indications, although I stand to be proven wrong, CDC’s Weah stands a seventy-five percent chance of being elected.
However, here’s another option; if the runoff poll were to be held, it will be won by an influential presidential candidate who has the well-organized political chemistry in place across the country, one who came with the reservoir of ideas and the inspiration to play on the emotions of the exasperated voting population and also be able to make the election people-centered and or cardinal issues-oriented; one who will speak logically, substantively, intelligently and tactfully on issues affecting bulk of the disconnect populace politically blindfolded and grossly slammed in a quandary and denied benefitting from the spreading courtesy of equity and equality before the laws.
If Boakai is successful, he will be the first to be elected president from the Northwestern Region of Liberia; he hails from Foya in Lofa County while Senator Weah who hails from Sasstown in Southeastern County of Grand Kru, if elected, will be the first for the County and third elected presidents from the Southeastern Region. The first was William V.S. Tubman from Maryland County and second was Samuel K. Doe from Grand Gedeh County.
Interestingly, and capturing some commonalities reflective of the two individuals hanging in the wind and awaiting the Supreme Court’s whistle to engage the runoff if it should turn out that way; both Boakai and Weah are members of the Liberian Senate; the two are neighbors and residents of the Rehad Community on the RIA Highway in Paynesville while both hold ambassadorial titles; once an ambassador, always an ambassador. Presently they are the two most popular Liberians politically as being depicted in the country’s dividends of their votes obtained in the recent October 10 poll.
But can Boakai or Weah remove greater number of poverty-stricken masses from abject poverty to a new level of appreciative livelihood? The winner of the pending runoff will face a task of removing greater number of poverty-stricken masses 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 majority of the population nationwide, vested interest in the reduction of the massive unemployment menace coupled with vigorous and untiring efforts in creating jobs; while ensuring quality education with emphasis on available and affordable health care among other necessities of human needs.
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?
But can these essential necessities be visible in the absence of placing state authority in the hands of a leader-one who lack the political will to conclusively combat corruption and cannot commends greater respect from the population?
This time around, to win one does not need a threshold of 50 percent plus one vote, instead a simple majority vote of the total valid votes counted for the runoff as entrenched in the Liberian constitution. But which one of these two charismatic political characters, UP’s Joseph Boakai or CDC’s George Weah that holds the political chemistry to seal victory in the runoff to become the heir to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?
The space for a runoff is necessitated owing to the failures of one of the twenty candidates in the recent October’s 10 presidential election to ultimately capture 50 percent plus one vote, the threshold that could avoid the second round of voting. The runoff does not require a threshold 50 percent plus one vote but a simple majority vote of the total valid votes counted. In an instance where candidate A obtained 95 votes and candidates B obtained 96 votes, the candidates with 96 votes constitutionally becomes the winner of the runoff.
The runoff ballot was earlier planned for November 7 but was cancelled due to a legal challenge to the process by one of the 18 defeated political parties, Liberty Party’s flag-bearer, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine who claimed that the electorate exercise was reported marked by fraud although the European Union and the United States Embassy near Monrovia have stressed that they have integrity in the October 10 elections. The U.S. which is global touch-bearer of democracy has called on UP’s Boakai and CDC’s Weah to submit to the runoff.
The final official result released by the national Elections Commission (NEC) showed 596, 037 valid votes which represents 38.4% for CDC’s Weah while UP’s Boakai obtained 446,716 the valid votes mounting to r 28.8%. The runoff has described as the only hope and aspiration for the nation to graduate from a political static mentality that has sunk the country in a state of merry-go-round.
The final results of the October 10 balloting stunned greater number of the considering the displayed of the unprecedented huge crowds that characterized this year’s presidential race. These results are far below the anticipation of political pundits.
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 149,000 votes different which 596, 037 valid votes against 446,716 the valid votes for the current vice president from the valid across the country. But for the runoff, both CDC and UP will be starting from square zero since votes from the first round are transferable.
The democratic system allows voters to cast secret ballots, free of intimidation, violence and inducement; it further gives electorates the options to make their choices on the basis of alternative developmental programs instead of primeval issues such as religion, ethnicity, race and personality. It provides for changes in government without violence while power can be transferred from one party to another by means of majority decisions-the highest votes count and most importantly, the process-service as a conduit for the nation to move another step forward.
Instead of maneuvering in order to undercut the other parties to win more votes during the October 10 polls, 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.
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.
On the 3rd working Monday in January which falls on the 15th President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf leaves office having presides over two successive terms, that is a fact; she to some extend has done well, but you wouldn’t find many people agreeing with you, though, that Sirleaf is well known on the globe stage, but has that brought any tangible and greater benefits to the nation in term of provide basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads, safe drinking water, jobs, quality education, available and affordable health care for their livelihood and unborn generations?
President Johnson-Sirleaf was seemed as a magic touch in the body politics of Liberia in 2005 and 2011, too, being granted in politics and fought bad governances in the past. The people needed a leader who could pass the ball around to the rest of the team mates and keep the spectators in a happy mood, not a meditative disposition, therefore during the past successive presidential election, Johnson-Sirleaf was a people person who many believed came with the reservoir ideas of how to fix the fragmented economics, reduce poverty and unemployment in the country, create enormous jobs and provide security for the entire population, ensure quality educations and unique health delivery system booming in the country.
The affection for president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf nowadays is in two-forth-depending on which of the sides you find yourself, however, let wait and see how the affection for the president is going to be when she shall relinquish power to her heir.