By-Elections Results Show Diminishing Popularity of Liberia’s President in His Stronghold
Monrovia – Attempts to overtake the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in Montserrado County over the last decade have been an elusive political venture until the table turned and the CDC mounted the ruling position.
From 2005 to 2018, the CDC – whether the founding party or the Coalition – has claimed every senatorial seat in Liberia’s most populous county, stamping its emblem on the two seats at the Senate and obviating chances of its opponents.
Montserrado: A Long Time Stronghold
Back in 2014, now President George Weah swept 78 percent of the votes to take a seat at the Senate, while his closest competitor, Robert Sirleaf – son for former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – managed only 10.8 percent of the votes.
Earlier in 2005, CDC two candidates – Joyce Musu Freeman and Hannah Brent – combined won 25.7 percent of the votes in a very parked and tight race. Another CDC candidate, the late Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, also went on to win 56 percent of the votes against a well-funded Clemenceau Urey, who earned 44 percent.
Last year, another CDC candidate, Saah Joseph, claimed 55.1 percent of the vote to occupy the seat made vacant by the ascendancy of President Weah.
Fast-forward to July 2019 and the variables seem to be changing, as the preliminary result in the just-ended senatorial by-election is showing that the CDC is trailing its major opposition in the race for the vacant seat at the Senate.
Meanwhile, there are inklings about the party’s ability to sustain an early lead against its main opposition in the District #15 poll.
The CDC is facing a more sophisticated opposition bloc encompassing four major political parties. The Unity Party, Liberty Party, All Liberia Party and the Alternative National Congress have amalgamated their forces to keep the pressure on Mr. Weah and his party.
The opposition has often discerned government’s perceived missteps, maximizing its propaganda prowess to keep the pressure and dividends are becoming perceptible.
And when the collaborating opposition parties opted to throw their weight behind a single candidate, the outcome is an epoch of Liberia’s politics.
What Are Early Results?
The National Elections Commission has taken two days to announced the first results amid claims and counterclaims by supporters of the two sets frontrunners that they have sealed victories.
In the representative election, 65 out of 94 polling places have been tallied, constituting 69.15 percent of the total votes cast. This puts CDC’s candidate Abu Kamara in the lead with 5,514 votes which amount for 45.95 percent of the total votes tallied.
Telia Urey, Kamara’s main rival, has accumulated 4,540 votes, representing 37.89 percent of the votes tallied so far.
In the senatorial race – a contest that has attracted massive attention in the body politics of the country – 924 out of 1,790 polling places have been tallied, representing 51.62 percent of all the votes cast.
Liberty Party’s Abraham Darius Dillion leads with 53,270 votes, which amount for 53.88 percent while the CDC candidate Paulita C.C Wie trails with 36,531 votes – which equates to 36.95 percent of the total votes counted so far.
Did Weah’s Rhetoric Fall on Deaf Ear?
The oppositions have now claimed Montserrado County has finally fallen at their feet, and this will be a massive blow to the ruling party.
Despite President Weah’s campaign rhetoric aimed at promoting his party’s candidates, the results are contradictory.
Speaking at his party’s rally ahead of the July 29 by-elections, Mr. Weah again vaunted about his firm popularity and that opposition candidates had no chance of winning any seat in the county once he remains “George Weah”.
Political observers say the results have weakened the President’s and his party’s grip on its stronghold and have handed the opposition window of opportunity to further exert more pressure of the government ahead of the 2020 nationwide senatorial race.
Why The Diminishing Popularity?
Montserrado County is a curse for any ruling party in every post-war election in Liberia. On the other hand, it’s a trump card for any opposition ready to exploit the lapses of the ruling establishment.
Hence, this seems to be a dilemma of the George Weah-led government that is already struggling to resuscitate a broken economy, bankroll civil servants’ paycheck, and limit political missteps.
As these bread-and-butter issues remain unabated, voters in the nation’s capital might largely be influenced by these economic factors.
Frequent protests or threat of protests have also shown glaring signs of the party’s challenges in dealing with public outcry about poor governance. The June 7 Save the State protest attracted a sea of people who are still acrimonious and have threatened to stage another mass protest.
Many of those protesters vented their disapproval of President Weah and his party’s handling of the state.
And to compound the situation, the appalling state of the economy is pinching everyone and remains the prime issue that the ruling party-cum-government is still far from curbing.
With the preliminary results of the by-election casting more doubts over the long-time popularity of the Coalition for Democratic Change in Montserrado County, many observers say these are factors dogging the once largest political party since it landed state power.
When the polls were conducted July 29 the electorates, many have asserted, protested through the ballot. And the results might probably leave the CDC sweating ahead of next year’s senatorial race.
Whether the party rekindles or goes back to the drawing board, Montserrado County is slowly slipping through its fingers and once it is fully lost, regaining it in 2023, when the presidency would be up for grabs, might be almost improbable.