By Eric Elezuo
As today marks the electoral end of President Ellen Sirleaf’s two terms reign, Liberians are expected to troop out enmasse to elect a replacement.
At the head of favourite to clinch the exalted position is former presidential candidate and world footballer of the year (2005) George Opong Weah. Mr. Weah is also a serving senator, who is competing with Ms Jewel Taylor, former wife of Charles Taylor, who is serving a jail term for war crimes, as running mate.
The long list of candidates vying for the country’s top job are not your average politicians; including a former warlord infamous for torturing and killing a sitting president, a world class football star, a former fashion model – who shares a child with said football star – as well as a host of career politicians and businessmen.
It is believed that Weah’s main opposition at today’s poll will the current Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Sirleaf’s two-term vice president, who investigations have revealed is having a rift with his principal. The knowledge came to light when Sirleaf did not attend his campaign rally. Sirleaf however, claimed her absence was as a result of preparations for the United Nations General Assembly meeting in late September.
Boakai served as agriculture minister under Charles Taylor before becoming vice president on the United Party’s ticket when Sirleaf beat football star and then political newbie George Opong Weah in a run-off.
Weah, like many young Liberians believe the election was stolen from him, as he had won the first round but failed to garner the constitutionally required 50 percent plus one minimum to win the presidency.
There is also the 66-year-old leader of Labour Party, Charles Brumskine, who is considered the most popular opposition politician in the country. He challenged Sirleaf in her 2011 second-term bid but failed to make it into the top three.
Prince Johnson may not be considered as a likely winner, but he may hold some influence if the election were to end in a run-off. His core support-base in Nimba County could sway the election in favour of whoever he chooses to back in a re-run. But owing to his infamous wartime activities, neither Boakai, Brumskine or Weah want to align themselves closely with him.
Meanwhile, when President Sirleaf said Liberia needs a younger person as its next president, 40-year-old political newcomer and former fashion model, MacDella Cooper, decided to use that statement to form her own campaign message.
“Coming out of the presidency in her 70s, she knows what it takes to keep the stamina of running that office,” said Cooper, the only female presidential candidate.
The incumbent President and Nobel Prize winner, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is stepping down after serving out her constitutional two terms of six years each.
She has led Liberia’s transition from a devastating 14-year civil war that ended in 2003.
If Weah should lose today’s election, it would not be because he is not capable, nor the Liberians don’t want him; his greatest undoing will be his penchant for keeping quiet during national discourse, his inability to contribute to national issues with his voice. This is because the stage is set for him to carry the day.