Another neck-on-neck Finish for Liberia Election

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[Global: Africa]

After months of campaigning, Liberians went to the poll Tuesday in a big show of support for the nascent democratic process in the country after 14 years of civil war.

The electoral landscape is a crowded field of 16 candidates running for president. On top of the 16 parties represented by 16 candidates are Unity Party of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of Winston Tubman.

Winston Tubman is the candidate leading George Weah’s CDC, while Weah serves as the Vice presidential candidate. As the polling centers closed Tuesday evening, unofficial preliminary results coming in suggest big leads for the two major parties.

In post-war Liberia, the two main persons that have defined politics are President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the soccer legend-turned politician Georgia Weah. In the 2005 election with 22 candidates running, George Weah won the first round but lost the second round to Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The 2011 election is turning out to be a redux of 2005 with the two parties certain to face each other in the second round.  Weeks leading to the election on Tuesday saw the country with huge rallies which became a show of force between the president’s party UP, and the main challenger, CDC. The result of those huge rallies is what has been described now as big show of support by the voters for their candidates.

Another big name of the Liberian civil war running in the race is Prince Johnson, who captured and killed the late President Samuel Doe in September 1990. While he’s been shunned by many people because of his war time records, he’s very popular in his home county, Nimba, where he’s considered a hero by his Gio and Mano ethnic supporters. With his huge support in Nimba County, Prince Johnson will be a factor in the second round contest between the two leading parties, UP and CDC.

The unofficial reports coming put the UP of President Sirleaf up by 5,000 votes above the main contender, CDC. While unofficial preliminary results are filtering in, the official result is expected to be announced on Thursday, October 13, 2011 by the National Election Commission (NEC).

The voters also voted for 94 candidates from the list of 900 for both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In an election with no ideological difference between the parties and candidates, it’s more like a popularity contest between the various candidates.

For Weah, it’s his legendary soccer career that propelled him to the top of the Liberian political ladder. Over the years, various political parties have been courting Weah for alliance with his party, CDC. Earlier this year, he surprised many people when the primary of his party chose CWinston Tubman to head the ticket and Weah going as a VP candidate.

For many people, Weah lost the election in 2005 because of him not having a college degree, which became a campaign issue exploited by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, his main rival who finally won the election. Since then, Weah has gone to school and obtained a BA degree from Devry University in Florida, USA.

Their proposed winning strategy for this year's election was to have Weah running as VP to the veteran Liberian politician, Winston Tubman, who is the nephew of the longest-serving Liberian president, William VS Tubman. If Tubman wins, it will be the first time for a Tubman to be president in Liberia for the second time and the first time for a soccer legend to be a vice president in Liberia or Africa.

With the winning of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize by the incumbent president, the 2011 Liberian election is certainly a historic moment, a great turning point for a country which went through 14 years of a most vicious civil war.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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