Monrovia – Not even the celebration of her 79th birthday could spare President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf some scathing verbal attacks from members of her own party, much more the one trumpeting her vice president, Joseph Nyumah Boakai as her likely successor for the Liberian presidency.
For months leading into these elections, it was an open secret that something was amiss between pair, a Harvard-trained economist riding on fanfare of massive women support and a former minister of Agriculture from a vote-rich county, Lofa.
The pair rose to victory, not once but twice – in 2005 and 2011, prompting Sirleaf to declare in a 2015 FrontPageAfrica interview that she and her vice president would leave the seat of the presidency together. “Joe Boakai and I have stuck together. We stuck together for the first term, we’re sticking together again for the second term. We hope that God will give us the second term and he and I will retire together. We will both leave public office and turn it over to the young people and go and rest ourselves. He will be with me right to the end.”
Sirleaf has been often criticized for now doing a lot more to prepare Liberia for life after her presidency. Many of the President’s critics say she could have done more to plan the transition to her likely successor.
So, when the party, at its convention early this year decided to name Boakai as its standard bearer in these elections, it was clear Boakai’s mind was made up, that he would not be sailing in to any sunset with Sirleaf, at least if he had his way.
But that was yesterday. Today, the dynamics are a bit off, the first round of the elections are over and the results are in: Football legend-turned Senator George Manneh Weah topped the field of 20 candidates with 38.4% while the ruling party’s Joseph Boakai finished with 28.8%. In third place is Charles Brumskine who is nearly 20% further back on 9.6%, having had only one quarter of Weah’s vote and one third of Boakai’s vote. Rounding up the top five, Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, MDR received a total of 127, 666 votes, constituting 8.2 percent, while Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress, ANC obtained a total of 112, 067 votes amounting to 7.2 percent of the total votes cast on October 10, 2017.
These elections have been exhausting, tedious, overwhelming and expensive, the very reason why many political observers initially frowned on the numerous political parties fielding candidates for the presidency.
To break the momentum which the momentum the CDC had enjoyed in the past two elections and the power of the incumbency, the rest of the field of 18 candidates had their work cut out for them: Form a strong coalition or a united front and hope that it is strong enough to knock either Weah or Boakai out of contention and give them a shot at a second-round shootout with either one of the two. The results of the first round show that many of those in the race failed to make the cut, reminiscent of scenes Liberia witnessed in the 1985 elections of the Samuel Doe era, the 1997 elections of the Taylor era and the two terms of the Sirleaf presidency when the opposition failed to come together.
But here they were on Sunday, at least two of them, the All Liberian Party and the Liberty Party, sitting side by side with the ruling Unity Party throwing jabs at the incumbent, and slamming her for overseeing the most fraudulent elections in recent memory, dampening what is supposed to be a genuine transitional process, the first since 1944, when Edwin James Barclay stepped down for William Tubman, although Tubman himself would later cling onto political power for nearly three decades.
The delivery by Wilmot Paye, Chair of the ruling party was scathing, direct and clear, that Sirleaf was directly involved in fixing the elections to favor an opposition party.
In fact, Paye even accused Sirleaf of inviting Election Magistrates to her residence for a meeting, which is unprecedented in election history. “Our respective Political Parties maintain that this act clearly amounted to interference with the electoral process and has no legal basis or justification whatsoever.”
He also accused the President of making direct contact with the head of the National Elections to alter the outcome of the elections. “The president’s conduct was an act of intimidation and inducement, especially since some commissioners of the National Elections Commission had warned Chairman Jerome Kokorya against Election Magistrates meeting President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Those commissioners were correct that because there was no precedent for it anywhere, that meeting was not necessary at all.”
Paye exclaimed that “if the president had any legitimate “concerns” about this year’s elections, she needed to have made those concerns public and not to the magistrates, who are way below the administrative and legal institutional channels. Chairman Kokorya cannot continue to receive instructions from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.”
Ironic Twist for UP
And there were plenty of irony, too as the UP chair called on all Liberians to rise up in order to save Liberia from the shackles of greed, a familiar refrain the opposition have been trumpeting the past twelve years. “We are under no illusion that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has so much to be grateful for: twelve (12) years of quiet and uninterrupted stewardship in spite of the scathing effects of corruption and waste, nepotism, poverty and selective application of justice and the rule of law. After seventeen decades as a sovereign country, this is not what Liberia and its people deserve from a president this privileged.”
Sunday’s scathing rain of attacks on Sirleaf by her own party may have finally unravel a feud that has been building up for months. It was even unclear Sunday whether Boakai had called Sirleaf to wish her happy birthday.
Only a week ago, controversy emerged when both Boakai and Sirleaf quietly expressed outrage over a version of Boakai’s speech he delivered last Monday following his return from briefing with Senegalese President Macky Sall, that found its way on the internet. The speech which was later taken down was different from the version read by Boakai.
Boakai charged: “Contrary to the assumption and expectations since the start of the formal campaign process for the 2017 presidential and representative, neither my campaign nor the Standard Bearer Emeritus – all attempts by me or individual operating upon my instructions to extend a hand of cooperation to the Standard Bearer Emeritus have yielded little or no success. Instead, the Standard Bearer Emeritus is on record for making statements to the international media that, wittingly or unwittingly, have the net effect of detracting from our quest for the presidency.”
Boakai went on to accuse Sirleaf of not supporting the party. “What is even more concerning is not the fact that the Standard Bearer Emeritus is not the fact that the Standard Bearer Emeritus is not supporting us, but we have received disconcerting and credible information from multiple sources even within the opposition political parties that the Standard Bearer Emeritus and individuals close to her and operating under her instructions are in fact giving multiple forms of support to our main opponent in the presidential race, the coalition for democratic change. It is strange and ironic that some of the very individuals whose performances while in government left a bad impression on the minds of the Liberian people would jump ship to the opposition CDC and be urging CDC operatives to hammer the Unity Party for ‘failing the people’
LP Partisan: ‘This is a Mistake’
A week later, the concerns over whether Boakai approved the version that went on line or not is now clear. Multiple sources tell FrontPageAfrica that the vice president has been under pressure for months from factions within his circle to go after the President due to what his aides say, is the lack of support from her for his presidential quest.
Last week, a FrontPageAfrica investigation found that the President has actually been involved in sourcing funding from Morocco, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries for Mr.Boakai’s presidential bid.
The ricochet effect from these elections already appears to be having some implications for not just the ruling party but also the opposition. Although two of twenty parties sat beside the UP during Sunday’s news conference, members of those parties are raising alarm.
“I don’t believe the LP has allowed itself to be on the same mourning bench with this failed UP. This is a mistake. UP is using our hands to take palm nuts from the fire, D. Solomon Fyneah posted on Facebook after Sunday’s news conference.
Maxwell Grigsby, another partisan lamented: “The Unity Party’s solidarity support for the pending lawsuit of the Liberty Party is welcoming but the overnight collaboration is a marriage with a few members of the executive committee and not a popular decision of the Executive of the Liberty Party.
Kla Toomey, Spokesperson for the party explained that although he had some personal reservations about the sudden collaboration, it was the will of the party. “I have some personal reservation but being the party’s spokesperson, we have to flow with it. It will have some negative reactions and some partisans are not in support of it but we just have to take that position.” Click here to continue reading.