hoping to win

Liberia: Who’s who in the presidential election

By Dounard Bondo

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Posted on June 29, 2023 12:52

 © Liberia’s President George Weah attends a plenary session at the start of the Paris Peace Forum, in Paris, France, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Liberia’s President George Weah attends a plenary session at the start of the Paris Peace Forum, in Paris, France, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

On 10 October, Liberians will head to the polls to vote for their next president, the fourth election since the end of its civil war in 2003. Among the front runners are incumbent George Weah who is challenged by former vice president Joseph Boakai, philanthropist and businessman Alexander Cummings, and Taiwan Gongloe, a renowned human rights lawyer.

To win, a candidate must win at least 50 per cent plus one (1) of the votes cast. If no party reaches that, the two parties with the most votes in the first round proceed to a run-off election which is won by a simple majority.

George Weah

President George Weah is looking for a second mandate, keeping current Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate.

A former senator who became president in 2018 after running in 2006 and 2011, he is hoping to win a second six-year term and claims he will win in the first round.

Weah is hoping that his infrastructure projects – including a number of roads and sports parks – will help the former football star and 1995 World Player of the Year get over the finish line.

He is also touting policy victories, like the declaration of free tertiary education in government universities and the passage of dual citizenship laws.

On the other hand, Weah’s opponents and critics have highlighted increased inflation and his dismal track record in the fight against corruption as reasons not to vote for him.

In 2022, the US Treasury sanctioned three top government officials for corruption, including the minister of state, the head of the Port Authority, and the solicitor general.

With elections set for October, Weah’s Coalition of Democratic Change – a coalition of three parties comprising Centre For Democratic Change, National Patriotic Party and Liberia People’s Democratic Party – has expanded its coalition by entering into alliances with a number of smaller parties.

Joseph Boakai

The Unity Party’s Joseph Nyumah Boakai is aiming for the country’s top job after serving two terms as the vice president of Liberia (from 2006 to 2018) for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

He also served as minister of agriculture from 1983 to 1985 under President Samuel Doe. As a minister, he oversaw the programme to decentralise agriculture by creating regional hubs – a major project in Liberia, where many people are subsistence farmers.

Boakai comes with extensive public sector experience, having previously served in managerial positions in the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) and Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) in the early 80s.

Boakai has centred his campaign on agriculture, roads and education. However, at 73 years of age, critics say he is too old and concerns over his health continue to linger.

In the lead-up to the elections, Boakai’s Unity party has entered an alliance with former warlord-turned-Senator Prince Johnson and his Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction party who hold sway in populous Nimba county. He has also received endorsements from influential opposition politicians such as Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence.

Alexander Cummings

Businessman, philanthropist, and politician Alexander B. Cummings is running on his wide and varied private sector experience with nearly four decades of experience working in international business, highlighted by an almost two-decade career at The Coca-Cola Company.

With his experience, Cummings has made growing the economy his flagship issue. He has also shown significant support for a war and economic crimes court, providing credit financing for businesses and investing in agriculture and infrastructure.

Cummings is running under the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), a coalition of two opposition political parties, the Alternative National Congress and the Liberty Party. While the CPP originally included the Unity Party and All Liberia People Party, both parties allegedly left the CPP over disagreements as to who will head the coalition’s ticket as the presidential candidate.

Tiawan Gongloe

Prominent human rights lawyer, law professor, and politician Tiawan Gongloe has a reputation for being upright and is running on an “anti-corruption” ticket.

In his early years, Gongloe served as a student leader and later as an activist. In 1983, he, along with others, founded the Liberian People’s Party (LPP).

As a human rights lawyer, he provided legal representation for journalists, pro-democracy groups, media, human rights NGOs, and many grassroots organisation members illegally arrested and detained by the government or held in contempt.

Gongloe also served as the president of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) -the country’s umbrella organisation for lawyers – from 2018 to 2022.

Gongloe also comes with public sector experience. He was appointed as Liberia’s first post-war Solicitor General after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf assumed office in January 2006, and from 2009 until late 2010, Gongloe served as Labour minister.

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