Liberia’s 2023 presidential election is poised to have deep-rooted problems

In 2023, Liberia is poised to hold presidential and legislative elections, but several international and national observers believe the country still has many unresolved electoral transparency issues. Moreover, ongoing negative political gamic, distrust, and turmoil in addition to a struggling economy could position the country’s forward match to democratic sustainability as unattainable. At the moment and due to ongoing misguided conflict and legal wrangling in the country’s main opposition bloc, the “Coordinating Political Parties”, it would appear that any chance of mounting any formidable and sustainable challenge to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) alliance would prove difficult despite the lapses of the ruling coalition which comprises incumbent President George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, the National Patriotic Party (NPP) of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. The main opposition political bloc membership included the Unity Party (UP), headed by former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, the Alternative National Congress (ANC) headed by former U.S.-based Coca Cola’s global chief administrative officer, Alexander B. Cummings, All Liberian Party (ALP) led by prominent Liberian businessman and former CEO of the Liberia Maritime Authority, Benino Urey, and Liberty Party (LP) headed by Grand Bassa County senior senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence.

The main opposition bloc of four mainstream political parties fell apart after the leaders of the other three political parties accused Mr. Alexander B. Cummings of the ANC of forging documents and changing specific contents in the bloc’s unity framework to suit his political ambition and position him as the de facto leader when it comes time to select the bloc’s standard-bearers. Although Mr. Cummings vehemently denied the accusations, Mr. Benino Urey of the ALP not only withdrew his Party’s membership from the bloc, he also sued Mr. Cummings on allegation of forgery. Weeks later, former Vice President Joseph Boakai held a press conference to announce his Party’s withdrawer from the bloc. Prior, Senator Karnga-Lawrence, the political leader of the Liberty Party (LP), and other Party executives accused Mr. Cummings of tempering with the bloc’s framework as well as meddling in the internal affairs of the Liberty Party. The LP’s leadership also sued their Party’s chairman Musa Bility and accused him of clandestinely promoting and facilitating the political ambitions of the ANC leader, Alexander B. Cummings. 

As a bloc, the main opposition group presents two promising leaders (Alexander B. Cummings and Joseph N. Boakai) that could pose a formidable challenge to President Weah and his ruling coalition. The reason is Mr. Cummings, apart from being a respectable global corporate leader, is so far the only opposition candidate that could finance a presidential campaign to march up with the ruling CDC administration without seeking any real public financial support. Still, he does not seem to have massive and attractable grassroots support other than an increased level of social media affiliates.

Former Vice President Boakai does not appear to have the essential resources needed to support a full-scale political campaign. Still, he seems to have massive and attractable grassroots support nationwide in large part due to his distinguished track record and longtime role in public service dating back four decades ago.

The ongoing anarchy in the main opposition bloc appears to be providing an unexpected opportunity for the re-election of President George Weah and his CDC-led government in 2023. In addition, President Weah’s increased level of tolerance in the wake of established, proven, and sometimes unfounded criticism and personal attacks against him is endearing some degree of public support for him among some quarters of the Liberian population.

The breakdown in the main opposition bloc also provides an opening for new opposition political leaders to emerge. The leading ones include respected civil and human rights lawyer Tiawon Gongloe, a former solicitor general and labor minister; international businessman William Tuider, businessman Simeon Freeman, philanthropist Daniel Cassell, and former Liberian Ambassador to the United States, Canada, and Mexico Nathaniel Barnes.  

There is chatter in the Liberian diaspora communities that a Tiawon Gongloe-Samuel Kofi Woods ticket would serve as the most credible challenge to the ruling CDC coalition’s re-election chances. In contrast, others think a Boakai-Cummings ticket would be the best option. Still, some believe it is time for a business person to lead Liberia. This group seems to seriously consider William Tuider, Simeon Freeman, and Daniel Cassell.

With no clear and formidable opposition bloc, President Weah and his CDC coalition government have solid chances of winning re-election if some serious improvements are not only made in the security, economic, governance, development, transparency, and accountability sectors of the country but are also experienced by a cross-section of the Liberian population, especially in the areas of poverty reduction, employment opportunities, access to improved healthcare and power. Although the international community and various development partners have been heavy-lifting, improvising, and offsetting many of the country’s economic failures in the past few years to provide legitimacy to the government, the problems facing Liberia are too vast.

They include an extreme proportion of poverty, crime and general insecurity, high private sector unemployment, poorly managed and weak healthcare system, high deficiency in attracting foreign investment, widespread skill gap, and systemic challenges in workforce performance. In addition, without much history of parliamentary incorruptibility and national political leadership, the road to national prosperity in Liberia, in the past decade, has traditionally focused on being on the receiving end of international assistance and guidance. These weaknesses are set to stay as long as the country’s political mechanism lacks maturity.

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