On 2nd Thoughts: Liberia’s 2023 Presidential Election-The Three Horse Race
The three men were listed among the top 5 earners in 2017, with Mr. Weah clinching the first round by 38.37%, figures which were not enough to see him over the finishing line. The number acquired could only catapult Mr. Weah into a runoff against former Vice President Boakai who came second in 2017 accumulating 28.76%. Though President Weah, most popular then and now…
By Othello B. Garblah
By all accounts, Liberia’s 2023 Presidential Election is a three-horse race. This is undebatable. Yes, on a crowded presidential field of 20 candidates vying for the nation’s highest seat, incumbent President George M. Weah, former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, and former Coca-Cola Executive Alexander B. Cummings remain the frontrunners, the rest are expected to make insignificant impacts.
The three men were listed among the top 5 earners in 2017, with Mr. Weah clinching the first round by 38.37%, figures which were not enough to see him over the finishing line. Liberia’s electoral law requires that a candidate obtain 50 plus 1 percent of the votes to be declared winner.
The number acquired could only catapult Mr. Weah into a runoff against former Vice President Boakai who came second in 2017 accumulating 28.76%. Mr. Cummings settled for 5th place as a newcomer just months before the 2017 presidential race acquiring just 7.21% of the votes behind Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson who came fourth garnering 8.22%.
The race in 2017 was more competitive compared to 2023. Though President Weah, most popular then and now was considered one of the favorites to win in 2017, Liberty Party Standard Bearer late Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine, father of Collaborating Political Party (CPP) vice Standard Bearer Charlyne Brumskine was the candidate to watch.
Former Vice President Boakai and his campaign team were at this time at loggerheads with outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf thereby weakening the former ruling party and rendering it incapacitated to produce a united front. Boakai’s refusal to collaborate with Liberty Party Brumskine in 2017 was also a factor.
Hence, Ambassador Boakai was considered by many as a third choice. But he pulled a surprise over Cllr. Brumskine. The latter will file a lawsuit against the National Elections Commission at the Supreme Court for vote rigging and irregularities. The rest is history.
However, unlike 2017, this year’s election appears less competitive in terms of the popularity of candidates in the race and their abilities to win voters over. This has placed Mr. Weah, Amb. Boakai and Mr. Cummings far ahead of the rest.
Chances and challenges of the presumed frontrunners
Incumbent President Weah
Incumbent President Weah arguably remains a popular candidate in the race. His connection with young people, especially most first-time voters put him in a league all by himself. His Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) ability to organize rallies and publicize events has been exceptional compared to its two immediate competitors.
Mr. Weah and his CDC’s slogan of “Change you can depend on”, alongside WEAC fee payments and free tuition for public schools and universities, have resonated well with young people.
However, Mr. Weah faces a daunting task not just in securing a first-round victory but with the huge margins secured in 2017. President Weah’s critics will acknowledge that he came into the 2017 race without any record to defend and therefore, his popularity was the only vehicle that drove him to the Executive Mansion.
In 2023, the variables have changed. President Weah now has a record to defend: a crippled economy, corruption and failed promises. These are holes that have crept into the President’s popularity, and he must now ably defend against a raging opposition that continues to feast on his administration’s failure.
But the President would boast in addition to WAEC and free public schools and universities the construction of hospitals, roads, and rural housing units, etc. These could well sweep him into his third runoff but with whom?
Amb. Boakai stands a much better chance than he did in 2017. Now, that President Weah has a record to defend, and the former Vice President being seen as the most experienced Stateman puts him in a much better position to wrestle power from President Weah. Supported by a host of former government officials and surrounded by his kinsmen, Amb. Boakai looks the most likely alternative.
However, the former vice president comes into 2023 with too much excess baggage. The former vice President’s alignment with US designee Sen. Johnson, a former warlord, has caused many of his supporters both local and international to rethink. Added to this is his inability to be decisive. Many blamed him for his failed leadership role which saw the CPP, Liberia’s strongest opposition collaboration in recent history disintegrating right under his watchful eyes.
The former vice president’s age is also a factor, particularly speculations surrounding his health, which has caused many to fear that electing him in office will be equated to electing Sen. Johnson. Sen. Johnson has not even made it any easier for Amb. Boakai with his campaign pronouncements.
Mr. Alexander Cummings looks the candidate rightfully suited to wrestle power from President Weah. His wealth of experience as an international business tycoon and ideas on how to fix Liberia’s broken economy and get the private sector working is beyond measure. Cummings appears to be more connected with market women, youth groups, and businesspeople. Cummings also has a silent majority of supporters under his belt.
However, he has an excess baggage. His not taking no for an answer to contest as president has been viewed as arrogant and someone who is drunk with presidential ambition. His alignment with dozens of failed politicians from previous regimes to head his campaign team is negative. Many see his choices in terms of his political associates as errors of judgment that could affect his chances.
However, with less than 30 days to election, who knows anything can happen.
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