Liberia: Breakup in main opposition coalition alliance helps Weah ahead of 2023 vote

By Dounard Bondo
Posted on Monday, 10 January 2022 19:51

Liberia's President George Weah
Liberia's President George Weah in Paris, France, 11 November 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Ahead of the Liberian presidential and senatorial elections in 2023, disagreements within the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) – Liberia’s largest opposition coalition – has resulted in the withdrawal of the All Liberian Party (ALP) from the coalition. This strengthens President George Weah's chances for re-election in 2023.

The CPP was a coalition of four major opposition political parties, and they represented the primary challenge to a second term for Weah and his party, the Coalition of Democratic Change.

The CPP coalition consisted of the Unity Party, which is a former ruling party, the ALP, the Liberty Party (LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC).

The coalition was created with an agreement to field joint candidates during elections. This agreement has resulted in the coalition winning legislative seats during the mid-term and by-elections.

Tough task of unity

The ALP based its withdrawal from the coalition on allegations of breach and tampering with the coalition framework document. Ithas also issued legal proceedings against Alexander Cummings – the head of the ANC – based on these allegations.

However, the core reason for the disagreements within the opposition collation is who will head the coalition presidential ticket and run as the primary challenger to President Weah.

Who heads the ticket to challenge Weah?

The CPP framework provides that the coalition should field one presidential candidate. This presidential candidate is to be decided at a convention, but disagreements as to how the presidential candidate will be selected have spilt the opposition’s coalition.

There are currently two leading people who have declared an intention to run for the presidency on the coalition ticket: the UP’s Joseph Boakai and the ANC’s Cummings.

Boakai was the former vice-president of the immediate past president – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – serving in that role for twelve years. Prior to that Boakai worked extensively in government.  In 2017, he ran for the presidency, coming second after losing to Weah in the second round.

Boakai is campaigning on his extensive experience in government. However, critics point to his age – 76 – and the fact that he was a member of an incumbent government that lost at the polls as weaknesses. Boakai is the most popular opposition figure and has the largest base.

Rivals on the run

Running against Boakai to head the coalition ticket is Cummings. Cummings is a philanthropist and technocrat with extensive experience in the private sector. He has more than 15 years of working with the Coca-Cola group and rising to the position of executive.

Cummings ran for the presidency in 2017 but did not make it past the first round. Cummings is campaigning on his private-sector experience to help boost Liberia’s economy. He is also campaigning as an anti-establishment candidate.

Critics of Cummings say he lacks experience in government and politics, and is unlikely to secure enough votes to beat Weah.

According to Benoni Urey, the leader of the ALP, Cummings should not head the ticket because “people usually elect people who have worked in government. You don’t elect people who just come from a country and come to another country and want to be president. You elect people based on their experience and based on their reputation.”

Consequently, Urey’s ALP has thrown its support behind Boakai. The LP is spilt, with factions supporting different candidates.

A house against itself

If Liberia’s recent political history is anything to go by, coalitions are a big help to win the presidency. Both presidents Weah and Johnson Sirleaf formed coalitions to attain the presidency.

Many analysts state that the withdrawal of the ALP from the opposition coalition could be the beginning of the CPP’s end. The CPP is attacking Weah on corruption and the economy, but he has continued to maintain his base.

According to political analyst Ibrahim Nyei, “The CPP […] has disintegrated, and that’s certainly in Weah’s advantage. He is likely to face a fragmented and weak opposition. As an incumbent with numerous advantages, only a strong and well-organised opposition may unseat him, but the trend of events within the opposition coalition means Weah is likely to have an easy ride into his second term.”

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