FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

Liberia: The Changing Dynamics of the Montserrado Senatorial Race

Robert Sirleaf is yet to publicly declare his entry into the Montserrado County Senatorial race, but his aides are all but confirming the speculations which have been in the air for months that Sirleaf is more than likely to throw his hat in the race for Montserrado and not Gbarpolu as was previously speculated.

Speculations in recent weeks pointed to a political pact between Weah and Sirleaf although the contents of those discussions have not been made public, sources from both camps have ruled out a deal that would see Weah dropping out of the race to accommodate Sirleaf. But maybe Sirleaf doing the unthinkable by joining the CDC?

"I think Robert would want a faceoff with Weah. He lives for challenges and I do not think he would want Weah or any other player out of the equation, if he decides to contest, and that's a very big IF he would do so in a very BIG way." an aide to Sirleaf told FrontPage Africa this week.

FPA attempts to contact Sirleaf via phone weren't responded to: Sirleaf did respond to an e-mail: "Rodney, last month it was Gbarpolu, this month Montserrado, next month, I'm sure it will be Bomi, to be followed up with Margibi in the future. All conjectures."

Talk radio has been bombarded with the speculation that Weah, the political leader of the Congress for Democratic Change or CDC, who had previously hinted his intentions to contest, may have been offered a huge amount of money(some reports put it at US$1.5 million) to drop out of the race to accommodate Sirleaf.

Weah himself Saturday during program held for an auxiliary of the CDC, the "Supreme Sisters" dispelled romor that he will lend his support to another candidate for the Montserrado seat.

Said Weah "We must work together and stick together and show to the world, not only Liberians to all CDCians, and auxiliary groups we must show to the world that this coming senatorial election must be our target point. It must be a point of seriousness where we will all wish for the world to know that we are ready and prepared to do anything to ensure that our people recover from the dungeon of slavery and poverty." CDC Chairman George Solo also pledged his support for Weah in the Montserrado senatorial election.

Solo said:"If you want to be a member of the CDC it is your constitutional right but if you want to contest in Montserrado on the CDC, I will not support you. If you want to become standard bearer for the CDC come 2017 I will not support you. I will not vote for anyone wanting to be senator for Montserrado County and standard bearer for the CDC."

Mulbah Morlu, CDC's Vice Chairman for Operations directly commenting on Weah reported act with Robert Sirleaf ruled out the possibility of Weah dropping out of the race when contacted this week. "While we pride ourselves in the success of the coming declarations, we're nonetheless refusing the temptation to settle down to the danger of complacence as we work to intensify outreach in the professional community. CDC political leader George Weah and Party Chairman Solo, will touch down in time at RIA to grace the program at headquarters", said Morlu.

The CDC Vice Chairman described news that the party political leader, Weah is trading his senatorial ambition to Mr. Robert Sirleaf as gibberish. "Speculations of Ambassador Weah's trade of senatorial ambition is a gibberish and falsified political engineering that deserves not the dignity of a response. Simply put, his contestation of Montserrado as a candidate is as fixed as the northern star and is not subject to variations", said Morlu.

Morlu says contrary to such claim, Weah is currently in Accra, Ghana, procuring campaign materials in preparation for the pending senatorial race.

"To create a falsified propaganda out of the figment of thee imagination suggesting a Weah quitting a race for Montserrado is futile attempt defied by reality! Contrary of spin doctors, ambassador Weah and team's visit to Accra, Ghana was to fulfill a scheduled trip to procure campaign materials ahead of 2014 election as the CDC work to project a strong showing, anticipating 8 seats in the worse case. Irrespective of these known tactics, we remain committed to leading a clean campaign based on conventional democratic norms, and not condescending gutter politics that favors losers".

Jefferson Koijee, the party's Youth League Chairman agrees. "To create a falsified propaganda out of the figment of thee imagination suggesting a Weah quitting a race for Montserrado is futile attempt defied by reality! Contrary of spin doctors, ambassador Weah and team's visit to Accra, Ghana was to fulfill a scheduled trip to procure campaign materials ahead of 2014 election as the CDC work to project a strong showing, anticipating 8 seats in the worse case. Irrespective of these known tactics, we remain committed to leading a clean campaign based on conventional democratic norms, and not condescending gutter politics that favors losers."

Sanvee, 'Not Dropping Out' Either

The talk of dropping out of the race has not escaped the camp of the youthful candidate running on the opposition Liberty Party ticket.

Benjamin Sanvee told FrontPageAfrica Wednesday that the biggest misconceptions amongst those who are fighting protect the status quo is that 2014 will be about personalities and distractions. But notes that his team refuses to allow a big election to be about small things. "Our hopes will not give way to fear and cynicism. This election is not about me or any other contender, whether a Weah or a Sirleaf, it's about the people."

contends that the people of Montserrado County understand that the greatest risk one can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. Change, he says can only happen because Liberians demand it. "We rise up and fight for it, embracing new ideas, powered with the politics of hope and possibilities. A politics for a new era, that's why our movement offers a fresh start not just for Montserrado County, but for this country. Because when this change happens, our faith would have been renewed in the system, believing that government can and should work for the people, and we all will be proud that what started as a whisper have spread across this country like a loud chorus."

Erasing the fear many have been harboring that the race in Montserrado was Weah's to lose, Sanvee contends that the county is not the personal property of any political party, that seat is not a CDC seat. "It's the people's seat... anyone who believes that this will be a cake walk or an election to just throw in money, must rethink their strategy. For those who are clinging on to past glory or past election results, I say stop reaching for straws in the ocean, you had your moment and the people's trust, but you squandered it."

Sanvee says his movement did not start in the halls of power with the blessings and endorsements from the powerful but began on the back porches in Barnesville and Logan Town as he sought to make the case that he has the ability to tap into Weah's grassroots base but with an outreach to cross over. "It's being built by young and old, privileged and not so privileged, men and women who are daring to BELIEVE that this time it will be different. That we don't have to settle for mediocrity. It's growing strength comes from those who have a generational apathy towards the system but yet still will not give up. When we started, it was always the focus to build something bigger than an individual, that's why we are a "TEAM". We know this journey ahead will be tough; No one wanting a mandate to lead should get it easily. The cynics and skeptics are now getting louder by the day. But we are focus. Our job is to debate the issues, draw the contrast and paint a clear picture for our people to make an informed decision. So we welcome anyone into this race, but we have an unbending faith in GOD and our ability to give the people of Montserrado County not just an alternative, but "a fresh start".

Neyor Pondering Run?

Looking to make his stand on the political front is Dr. Christopher Neyor, the former head of the National Oil Company of Liberia, who FrontPageAfrica has learned is contemplating throwing his hat into the race. Political observers say Neyor's entry would send a shockwave through the political landscape with another figure with name recognition from his credentials and years of high-level public and private sector management experience.

Neyor's supporters say, his history of youth empowerment and standing among the young people will prove a challenge for both Weah and Sanvee who are leaning heavily on the youth votes to make gains.

Neyor's record of youth and community empowerment dates back to the 1980's when he was Managing Director of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC). As a former President of the Barrolle Sports Association his supporters say, he is looking to cut into the CDC sports base.

As President and CEO of NOCAL, he launched a 15/12-scholarship program that was intended for 12 students to be recruited from each of the 15 counties, 10 for local universities and 2 for graduate schools abroad (total of 180 students per year). He also started a youth community center concept and built the first pilot project n Logan Town as well as a countrywide low income housing project that was initiated in three counties.

While Neyor father hailed form Rivercess County, he was born in Montserrado County. Because of his popularity in Rivercess, political pundits speculated that he was to run for the Senate seat in that county. In 2012, he contributed LD$1 million to Rivercess for the establishment of a microloan program.

To his credit, Neyor has made a smooth transition from public service, launching a successful private enterprise. Since his departure from NOCAL, it is reported that he has worked in South Sudan, Angola and Nigeria. His company Morweh Energy Group represents oil companies and is the lead entity for construction of an oil and gas logistics base in Buchanan for the nascent Liberian oil industry.

Neyor abrupt removal from NOCAL following the 2011 re-election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reportedly surrounding his handling of the controversial Block 13 may become a campaign issue. The public may want to know what exactly happened leading to his dismissal.

One factor uncertain for now is whether Neyor would run as an independent or mend ties with an opposition political party. FrontPageAfrica has learned that overtures have been made on both sides from the Alternative National Congress (ANC), the breakaway political wing of the CDC.

Complicating the race for the CDC is the fate of the incumbent Senator, Joyce Musu Freeman, who has already threatened to run as an independent should the party bulldoze their into her job. She has in recent time taken the party to task for "plotting to 'dethrone' her as Senator.

Freeman has made it clear that Weah's Ambassador Weah would contest the 2014 Special Senatorial race was not "consultative." "If CDC should remain relevant to the people of Liberia and the international community, it must do away with issues that have the propensity to cause division", Freeman told journalists covering the legislature last year.

WHO WILL BEAT THE ODDS?

High and Low Points Likely to pose challenges to leading contenders for the Montserrado County Senatorial race

GEORGE WEAH

STRENGHTS: Love him or hate him, Weah's popularity among the youths cannot be underestimated. Although those numbers have shrunk over the last two elections, Weah remains a strong political force especially among the youth and in the capital city-Monrovia

WEAKNESSES: Weah's acceptance of a job in the Sirleaf government as Peace Ambassador has not gone well with some of his supporters and many have taken issues with his long absence from the country. His critics say, Weah may be losing touch with his grassroots base and could struggle to clinch votes in Congo settlements like Brewerville, Clay Ashland, Careysburg and other areas. This could be the reason, his supporters say, he has toned down his rhetoric recently, calling on youths to drop the talk of protests and demonstrations and urging critics of the Sirleaf administration to engage the government constructively and not destructively.

ODDS: 2-1

ROBERT SIRLEAF

STRENGHTS: Sirleaf has been aggressively engaged in Weah's stronghold of New Kru Town, West Point and Clara Town where he was instrumental in mini-football stadium on the turf where Weah learned his craft. Sirleaf's supporters see his many charitable ventures in areas considered CDC strongholds as a key asset likely to give him an edge.

WEAKNESSES: Sirleaf's critics question whether he could have made the gains he has if he was not the son of a sitting president. There has also been concerns about how a Senator Sirleaf would vote on a gay rights bill if elected in the Senate. While he has not addressed the issue of his sexual orientation, some political observers say, the issue could be a thorn in Sirleaf's quest and a nagging issue, his opponents could toy with in rugged innings of the campaign season. Perhaps Sirleaf's biggest issue could be the referendum vote impact. Many political observers say a win for Sirleaf could weaken Weah politically but a lost would also serve as a litmus test for his mother, President Sirleaf, looking to have a say in her successor. Voters unhappy with Sirleaf could send a message here and send Rob packing.

ODDS: 5-1

BENJAMIN SANVEE

STRENGHTS: In a short time, Sanvee has made inroads in the debate over who should clinch the Montserrado County seat. His supporters say he is a breadth of fresh air among a stale crop of political field and just what the Senate needs.

His critics counter that while Sanvee talks a good talk, they're not sure he is ready to stake his claims in the political deck of cards as a senior senator.

WEAKNESSES: Inexperience could be a factor for Sanvee in his quest to win the seat.

JOYCE MUSU FREEMAN

POSITIVES: Freeman has spent the last nine years in a legislature that has come under heavy criticisms for not delivering the goods for constituents across the country. Voter rejection at the polls for the current bunch could pose dangers for Freeman, who could likely benefit from women voters unhappy with the manner in which the CDC is pushing her aside to make room for Weah. But would that be enough to put her over the hump as an independent?

NEGATIVES: Freeman could suffer from growing voters' fatigue that the current group of lawmakers have done little to earn re-election. Freeman also alienated the CDC base when she leaped ahead to print election materials in her quest to seek re-election. The party threatened to set up an Ad-hoc committee to probe the senator, putting Freeman at odds with the party's establishment.

ODDS: 10-1

CHRISTOPHER NEYOR

POSITIVES: To his credit, Neyor has made a smooth transition from public service, launching a successful private enterprise. Since his departure from NOCAL, it is reported that he has worked in South Sudan, Angola and Nigeria. His company Morweh Energy Group represents oil companies and is the lead entity for construction of an oil and gas logistics base in Buchanan for the nascent Liberian oil industry.

NEGATIVES: Neyor abrupt removal from NOCAL following the 2011 re-election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reportedly surrounding his handling of the controversial Block 13 may become a campaign issue. The public may want to know what exactly happened leading to his dismissal.

ODDS: 5-1

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2014 FrontPageAfrica. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.