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Liberia Goes to the Polls Today

Liberia stands on the portal of another crucial political era and the citizens are the ultimate arbiter and finisher of what is to come. The D-Day is today, October 11, the time set aside by the Constitution of Liberia for Liberians to either renew the democratic mandate of an incumbent leadership or bring into state governance a new breed of national leaders. Sixteen presidential candidates and hundreds of legislative aspirants have reinforced their messages to the people, and the people will decide tomorrow. We take a cursory look at the playing field and prospects thereabout.

Politicians are on the edge. The palpitation of their hearts must have increased by now. Their fates hinge on treads. The constitutional provision, “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require,” today when the people of Liberia shall have chosen to renew the Sirleaf administration or alter it to bring in a new one. In the last 90 days, over twenty political parties intensified campaign activities, consolidating their hold on various voting blocs and penetrating even the woods to reach out to the electorates.

On the main lineup for tomorrow’s decision-making are the Unity Party, Congress for Democratic Change, Liberty Party, National Democratic Coalition, Nation Union for Democratic Progress, amongst others. Dominating the campaign discuss is the NUDP-created, but UP-popularized “ugly baboon wait small, monkey still working” message; something that is being turned outside down by every political party and candidate to suit his condition.The Unity Party believes that it has done much for Liberia and still needs to do more, thus asking opponents to wait and not come to hijack the credit. But opposition politicians contend that the last six years under the UP rule was marred by political failure; that the government’s much-vaunted poverty reduction strategy (PRS) was in practice a poverty restoration strategy (PRS) that never filtered down to the ordinary people.

Though supporters of the Unity Party as well as opponents acknowledge that the last six years was more peaceful and saw press freedom and free speech taking hold and the country taking its rightful place in the international community, there are pundits who also believe that credit is not for the ruling party but the people of Liberia who have chosen to remain peaceful and who shared blood and tears in pursuit of greater freedom and liberty. The Unity Party contends it should be left alone to complete the plethora of marvelous macroeconomic and infrastructure programs it initiated in the six years without which Liberia would not have achieved relief from the hamstrung of foreign debts.

However, opponents counter-argued that as a developing country coming out of several years of civil war, reform programs such as macroeconomic transformation and debt relief were bound to attend the country’s recovery and development under any president, and not Sirleaf alone. In the last two weeks of campaign, many political parties and candidates launched their platforms and hosted huge political rallies in Monrovia. The ruling Unity Party and largest opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change, rocked Monrovia and its environs with colossal swarms of supporters.

Two Saturdays ago, the Unity Party seized the city when throngs of supporters and sympathizers took to the streets and later converged on the Antoinette Tubman Stadium. The hugeness of the crowds, coupled with their exhilarating chanting of deafening battle cries and slogans created so much emotions that choked President Sirleaf and robbed her voice to utter a word and launch the party’s platform. Nearly a week later, the largest opposition party, the CDC, launched its campaign at the same venue with a multitudes of people that some pundits described unprecedented in Liberia’s political history.

The crowds of the CDC that came from various directions of the city and its suburbs was impenetrable, stalling the movement of the “earthy flotilla” upon which the leaders of the Party rolled down town to speak. Other parties that conducted touching campaigns around the country included Prince Johnson’s National Union for Democratic Progress (NUDP), Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party and businessmen Simeon Freeman and Dew Tuan-Wleh Mayson.

Bill boards, posters, banners and stickers have swarmed the Liberian landscape, public places and vehicles around the country. Tuesday, is the D-day–the day Liberians are expected to make a determination on who governs the country for the next six years.Many political parties have already predicted an outright, first round win for themselves. The Unity Party has declared it would take the poll by storm because, according to its supporters, its campaign has attracted multitudes of people around the country and it has invested so much to campaign activities.

UP stalwarts contend that by virtue of crowds they pulled during the last weeks of campaign around the country and given the strategic (door-to-door) style it introduced this year, they are confident that first round victory is sure. The opposition CDC has made similar swank, stating that its followers and admirers quadruple from 2005 elections and by this it is going to give its main rival, the ruling UP a TKO. Stalwarts of the party say even ahead of poll, major opposition blocs have begun to announce their crossover and it is only a matter of tomorrow for Liberians and world community to see how the electorates would give the CDC an outright victory in the first round.

Despite the brags and counter-brags by the political parties, many pundits are unanimous in the view that first round victory is highly unlikely in the 2011 poll. One pundit argued that Liberians traditionally vote ethnically and regionally and that each of the sixteen presidential candidates in the 2011 race will get a fair share of the pie in the first round. The pundit theorized that Liberia’s recent past elections show that most electorates would not leave the candidates of their regions to vote for merit in the first round, and this scenario would be repeated today.

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