Chances For President Sirleaf's 2nd Term Diminishing

By P. Nimley-Sie Tuon

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 8, 2011

Signs indicating diminishing chances for President Sirleaf re-election seem to be emerging with Prince Johnson leading the way as the spoiler. While the holding of a successful election is still in doubt, Prince Johnson recent announcement of unconditional support for the TRC report and his selection of Lavuli Supuwood as his running mate have strengthened doubts of President Sirleaf re-election chances. As he did during the heat of the Liberian civil conflict, when it seems that victory was within reach of Charles Taylor and National Patriotic Front of Liberia, or NPFL, the unthinkable happened. Prince Johnson and a group of supporters broke ranks with the NPFL to form what became the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia, or INPFL. After that, victory for the NPFL became elusive with Taylor at one point declaring that his forces had killed Prince Johnson and put his body on display in Harbel. Mr. Prince Johnson is once again up to his same old tricks as a spoiler this time aimed at disrupting once considered a sure-in re-election presidential victory of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Using the 2010 State of the Nation Address, the over confident Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf defiantly announced that she was running for a second term and did not care whether her actions of using the State of the Nation Address was in violation of the law or what impact her 2nd term candidacy would have on the reconciliation process of Liberia in the face of the implementation of the TRC report. With a weak opposition, President Sirleaf and her supporters were overwhelmingly confident for a 2011 victory but that feeling was cut short when Prince Yormeh Johnson, no relationship, former warlord, now senator fromNimba County, Liberia’s 2nd most populous county, announced that he too was seeking the Liberian presidency. A move that immediately shut the doors for President Sirleaf making any significant gains in Nimba County. Before Mr. Johnson’s Announcement, supporters of the president were publicly stating that she would be swept to power in the first round of the presidential 2011 election.

With Nimba County gone, at least in the first round, Madam Sirleaf and her supporters turned to central Liberia to make sure Bong County, Liberia’s third most populous county was fully in her corner. But then two things happen that threatened Madam Sirleaf’s hold on Bong County. First, it was this announcement byCharles Brumskine of the Liberty Party that he has chosen Thomas Siakor, a junior senator from Bong County as his running mate, which immediately turned Bong County into a contested zone, or let us say up for grab. In addition to that came what is now being described as a self inflicted wound on the part of President Sirleaf with the dismissal of Bong County’s popular superintendent Ranney Jackson. Those familiar with and following the unfolding events in Liberia saw the decision to dismiss Mr. Jackson, as we say in Liberia, “the last button on Joe’s coat” regarding President Sirleaf’s chances in Bong County.

Recognizing the impact of this disastrous mistake on her prospects in Bong County, President Sirleaf immediately moved to savage it by declaring her support for Ranney Jackson as the Unity Party candidate for senator in Bong County. Hoping with Jackson on the Unity Party ticket for Bong County could somehow increase her chances. With Nimba County in doubt, Bong County a contested zone, President Sirleaf’s only hope to hold on to a populous county was Lofa. Banking on the fact that Lofa County, Liberia’s 5th most populous county, will be kind to her since her vice president Joseph Boakia is from there. As the political map seems to shaping in that direction, here comes Prince Johnson again selecting a long time Lofa politician Lavuli Supuwood as his running mate which threatens to snatch Lofa County from the Sirleaf column and put it into play. At this point, except being the incumbent, there is no strong indicator to suggest that President Sirleaf can be re-elected. It seems doors to many counties or regions of the country are closing on the president’s re-election campaign. Her ability to divide and conquer using development projects to get votes appears to be backfiring.

All along President Sirleaf campaign strategy was based on a 5-county strategy, aimed at the 5 most populous counties in Liberia. They include Montserrado, Nimba, Bong, Bassa, and Lofa counties. These are the counties that are receiving most of Liberia’s post developmental projects, and to re-enforce that, the Sirleaf government has chosen these counties as venues to celebrate Liberia’s annual Independence Day festivities. Based on Liberia’s level of development these counties received more than any other county, sometimes surpassed an entire region in development. With purportedly well known candidates emerging from various regions and counties of the country prospects for President Sirleaf winning a second term seems to be diminishing. The president’s only hope now is to slip by into the second round convincingly, and depends on who she meets in the second round could pull off another victory like 2005. The 2011 Liberian elections are being predicted to become Liberia’s most chaotic elections due to the fact that the Sirleaf government has failed to create a conducive atmosphere for reconciliation which has heightened distrust among people and across the nation with others calling for the institution of an interim government and have the elections postponed.