In Liberia, George Weah and Joseph Boakai prepare for a tight second round

The “knockout blow

In Liberia, George Weah and Joseph Boakai prepare for a tight second round

The “knockout blow.” » therefore did not take place. George Weah had promised this to Liberians, but the outgoing president failed to win 50.1% of the votes needed to be elected in the first round. He will face him on November 7, Joseph Boakai, 78 years old, four decades in the mysteries of power and former vice-president of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. A close duel, 7,361 votes separate the two men, 43.84% for Weah, 43.44% for Boakai according to the almost final results, and which sounds like a return match of the 2017 presidential election. George Weah then had was elected with 61.54% of the vote.

This second round is a hard blow for the president's camp which had not financially prepared for this hypothesis. “We will win in the first round because a second round would cost us too much,” assured on October 10, the day of the vote, Emmanuel Mulbah Johnson, the president of the youth league of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the party of George Weah. The organization of these general elections was a financial challenge for Liberia, which wanted to take charge of most of the voting.

Of the $53 million needed to provide voting in good conditions, only $49 million had been disbursed by the Ministry of Finance as of early October. During an appearance before the Senate on August 29, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, chairperson of the Electoral Commission, estimated that a second round of elections could only take place if the Ministry of Finance disbursed the missing funds. On Friday, she calmed concerns by announcing the release of credits thanks to support from the European Union and the United Nations Development Program.

Corruption impunie

George Weah has undoubtedly not measured the popular discontent that he now arouses, far from the euphoria that his election aroused in 2017. Candidate from the most disadvantaged sections of the country who identified with the former child prodigy from a poor district of Monrovia, the former footballer is now paying his meager balance. Despite the 400 kilometers of road built by his administration or the free university tuition he imposed, “Mister George” failed to convince the majority of voters on October 10.

In six years, its image has been damaged. Even if he appears to his supporters as the one who consolidated peace in the country – the civil war, which left 250,000 dead according to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ended twenty years ago – the presidency Weah is now also associated with unpunished corruption.

“Some of his collaborators enriched themselves illicitly and were sanctioned by the United States for embezzlement of public funds without Weah taking action. Others display outward signs of wealth that their civil servant salaries cannot justify. In a country where poverty is endemic, seeing your collaborators acquire luxurious villas in just a few months is shocking,” explains doctor of political science Lucia Maria Ursa, author of The Electoral Process in Liberia, from its Creation to Today (ed. L'Harmattan, 2018).

These scandals undoubtedly benefited Joseph Boakai. “He appealed by promising to restore the integrity of government, fight corruption and guarantee food security. This makes sense in a country with significant agricultural resources but struggles to feed itself,” explains Ibrahim Al-Bakri Nyei, director of the Ducor Institute in Monrovia. However, the opposition is not a winner for the second round due to its disunity. Before the vote, an attempt at a coalition was cut short due to divergent interests.

“Gross incompetence”

For MM. Weah and Boakai, a race against time is now underway to recover the votes of candidates eliminated in the first round even if they do not exceed 2% of the votes. “The time has come for the negotiation of positions of ministers or leaders of large administrations. In this game, Weah is the favorite because he is in power. Especially since in Liberia, the influence of political figures takes precedence over party programs or ideology,” explains Lucia Maria Ursa.

“Boakai is not sure to attract the favor of opponents because some criticize his age [78 years] and his alliances, in particular with Prince Johnson, the former warlord re-elected senator who imposed the president of his party as presidential running mate. Furthermore, Prince Johnson is against the creation of a tribunal to judge war and economic crimes while certain candidates campaigned on this subject. The negotiations for the second round therefore promise to be very open,” she continues.

At a press conference on Thursday (October 19), Boakai called on the opposition to support him to “save” Liberia from “gross incompetence, corruption, insecurity and lack of leadership.” from the CDC. The equation for George Weah will be to seduce voters outside his stronghold in the southeast where he received nearly 85% of the vote, while Joseph Boakai won in the most populous counties.

If the first round of this election was praised by international observers for its credibility, the second inspires more fears. Even if the candidates committed in April to settling all disputes through mediation or through appropriate institutions, some opposition voices are already crying fraud. The question therefore arises of the recognition of the result by the loser the day after November 7.