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Liberia: Stress-Testing Liberia’s Democratic Resilience

Photograph: Fb/NEC Liberia

The Supreme Court Docket in Liberia has halted the Second runoff elections that were to be held on the Seventh of November following a petition to appear into the first spherical of elections.


Over 1.6 million Liberians voted in twin parliamentary and presidential elections on 10 October, registering a record participation fee of 75.2%. Ten days later, Liberia’s National Elections Fee (NEC) introduced that former footballer George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Trade (CDC) had scored 38.4% and outgoing vice president and ruling Harmony Birthday Celebration (UP) same old bearer Joseph Boakai gained 28.8% of the vote. Charles Brumskine of the freedom Celebration (LP) got here 1/3 with 9.6% of votes forged.

Without A presidential candidate polling the specified 50+1% to forestall a runoff, the NEC scheduled the 2d spherical of vote casting for 7 November. Alternatively, it did so While investigating allegations of fraud and irregularity filed By Means Of the LP, triggering an avoidable political, legal and potentially constitutional obstacle.

After submitting his criticism, Brumskine – who by no means passed spherical one in three previous runs for president – submitted a writ urging the Supreme Courtroom to ban the runoff elections until his complaint was once addressed. The Court Docket dominated in his favour.

Apart From for Weah, the opposite candidates excelled of their counties of foundation and tanked nationally

There Is scant impartial evidence pointing to planned and systematic fraud with intent to rig the elections. The ballot-field stuffing and pre-filled ballot papers Brumskine cites as proof of fraud allegedly happened mainly in Grand Gedeh County which Weah won with Seventy Five% of the votes; and Nimba County which was carried With The Aid Of Prince Johnson with Fifty Three.5% of the votes. These are their strongholds, which they have consistently received in presidential vote casting first rounds given that 2005, just as Brumskine has at all times accomplished in his fief, Grand Bassa County.

The broader electoral map, Then Again, displays that Weah won 11 of Liberia’s 15 counties; Boakai gained two; and Brumskine and Johnson carried only their dwelling Grand Bassa and Nimba counties respectively. Except for Weah, the entire different high presidential candidates excelled in their counties of beginning and tanked nationally.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Brumskine’s request to postpone the runoff, on two grounds. It first of all underscored the significance of resolving disputes from the earlier round of voting and ascertaining the validity of each vote solid sooner than continuing to the runoff. Secondly, it based totally its decision on recognize for due process as enshrined within the Liberian constitution.

Whereas each grounds provide a prison basis to uphold Brumskine’s writ of prohibition, the Court Docket’s resolution has on the other hand created a political concern that now must be managed. Politically, it’s doubtful whether the irregularities that Brumskine alleges influenced the result to such an extent that it might invalidate the primary spherical of vote casting altogether.

From his penitentiary in England, Charles Taylor has pledged his give a boost to to Weah’s CDC alliance

As put up-electoral contestation has moved from the public sq. into the courtrooms, political splits have emerged pitting first-spherical winners and losers against each other – with Weah and Boakai on opposing aspects of the divide. Of the primary-round presidential candidates, Weah and his supporter Johnson seem ready to maneuver on with runoff elections. In The Meantime Brumskine and three other candidates, together with Boakai, make stronger delaying the runoff except all first-spherical grievances are resolved. This sets Liberians up for an intractable litigious course of, due to the fact that parties have the suitable to appeal the NEC’s choices prior to the Supreme Court.

The alignment on each side of the divide brings to the outside potentially incendiary tropes of identification and class inequality. The Weah facet attracts much of its enhance from the city youth. They frequently seem to his stellar global football occupation and subsequent ambassadorial and senatorial efficiency as credentials qualifying him to be president.

Having lost to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf within the 2005 runoff, and again as vice-presidential running mate to Winston Tubman in 2011, his supporters can be implacable must their candidate be denied his chance at the presidency in the chambers of a courtroom. This Is particularly given the CDC’s strong showing within the legislature, where it gained 21 of the Seventy Three seats to emerge as the largest Birthday Celebration bloc within the legislature.

However, his alignment with ghosts from Liberia’s civil conflict past – together with Prince Johnson and Jewel Taylor (former president Charles Taylor’s ex-spouse and Weah’s operating mate) – continues to boost questions about his political relationships. From his prison in Durham in the UK, Taylor has pledged his improve to the CDC alliance, of which his Nationwide Patriotic Celebration is a member.

It’s uncertain whether or not the irregularities alleged Through Brumskine would invalidate the primary spherical of voting

On the opposing facet is Boakai who, With The Aid Of aligning himself with Brumskine – a corporate attorney – in difficult the integrity of the elections, joins an elite workforce that includes two successful businessmen – Alexander Cummings (Various Nationwide Congress) and Benoni Urey (All Liberian Birthday Party). This alliance, dubbed ‘bedfellows of political comfort’ By Means Of Rodney Sieh, editor of Liberia’s prime newspaper FrontPage Africa, is still unclear as to its way ahead.

However the group is easily caricatured as being out of contact with the realities of everyday Liberians in a country where stark earnings inequalities outline social position and, hence, political domination. Past their elitism, they evoke widespread memories of how id and lineage supplied the basis for socio-political and economic domination sooner than and after Samuel Doe’s 1980 militia coup.

Because The publish-electoral battle traces crystallise, it is important to take note of changing dynamics between political leaders and their supporters. The degree of control that political leaders have over their supporters cannot be overstated, especially when perceptions are shaped With The Aid Of complicated prison decisions.

Public Conversation as part of a broader drawback-administration technique is vital in defusing tensions and supporting Liberia’s nascent democratic institutions as they navigate this era of stress-Trying Out. Communique plans developed all the way through the Ebola drawback present a template for informing Liberians about how the post-election crisis shall be resolved.

That Is important for rebuilding confidence within the NEC and the voting process upon which the credibility of Liberia’s budding democracy rests. A relapse into violence, though that you can think of, can be too high a price to pay for the deferment of challenge management.

Fonteh Akum, Senior Researcher, Peace and Safety Research Programme, ISS Pretoria

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