16 October 2017

Liberia Elections - Runoff Lobbying Underway - Weah, VP Look to Build Alliances

Photo: allafrica.com
Joseph Boakai and George Weah.

Monrovia — With 95.6% of polling places from ballot stations across Liberia reporting, it is looking increasingly likely and mathematically obvious that this year's Presidential race is headed to a run-off conclusion.

With 95.6 percent of votes counted, George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Vice President Joseph Boakai are on a collision course to woo and sway the rest of the field of 20-candidates eyeing the Liberian Presidency into their corner. Promises of jobs likely to dominate discussion table

In the past few days, rival supporters of both the opposition Congress for Democratic Change and the ruling Unity Party have been insinuating that they could pull it off in the first round.

But as of the last count, last Saturday, football legend-turned Senator George Manneh Weah has obtained 572, 374 votes for 39.0%; Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party has obtained 427,544 votes for 29. 0%; Liberty Party's Charles Walker Brumskine, 144,353 votes for 9.8%; Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress has obtained 104,125 votes for 7.1 % and Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction has 102,561 votes for 7.0%.

Like the elections in 2005 and 2011, at this stage of the process, the two leading candidates have already begun making moves across the aisle in hopes of winning over supporters of the rest of the playing field in a bid to strengthen positions for the run-off.

In 2005, an unlikely kingmaker, Dr. Joseph Korto of the Liberia Equal Rights Party, threw his weight behind Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who had just finished second to George Manneh Weah in the first round.

Dr. Korto's impressive show in vote-rich Nimba would later be rewarded with the Minister of Education post, a position he served from 2006-2010. Dr. Korto placed seventh out of 22 candidates, receiving 3.3% of the vote nationally and the highest vote total in Nimba County, his home base.

John S Morlu Sr, from another vote-rich county, Lofa, finished with 1.2 percent of the votes and landed the coveted post of Commissioner of the Bureau of Maritime Affairs. Nathaniel Barnes, who scored less than 1%, became Liberian Ambassador to the U.N. and eventually to the United States. Nearly all the remaining 20 candidates and their key partisans received positions in government.

In 2011, all the opposition candidates (except for Dr. Cecelia Ndebe and Dew Mayson) who challenged Sirleaf eventually joined her camp in the second round, securing lucrative positions and contracts in government - as a reward for his support.

Liberty Party Charles Brumksine was promised the ECOWAS Vice President position but he did not get it.

In exchange, he received government-backed contracts, which angered then UP Chairman Varney Sherman. Nearly all the key Executives in Liberty Party secured high level posts in the UP led government during Sirleaf's second term.

Six years later, Sirleaf's incumbent factor was crucial but it was the support of Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba who allegedly received thousands in exchange for his second round support to Sirleaf, that proved to be the difference as he broke away from the opposition and took his 13 percent votes total to the ruling party, leaving the rest of the opposition in the cold.

Rev Kennedy Sandy who barely registered in the votes in 2011 was able to secure a $10K a month plus benefits at the Constitutional Review Commission for his support to Sirleaf during the second round.

This year is no different. The jockeying and lobbying for positions have already commenced.

Last week both Weah and Boakai began making approaches to the rest of the field of 20 candidates in hopes of getting their support and win over their supporters.

Weah, according to sources has reached out to Brumskine, Cummings, and Prince Johnson as have Boakai.

FrontPageAfrica now takes a look at how the jockeying and lobbying for positions are playing out and where each of the remaining eighteen candidates are likely to throw their weight.

Charles Walker Brumskine, Liberty Party

THE LOWDOWN: The opposition Liberty Party's standard bearer is currently engulfed in a fight with Cummings for the third spot. Brumskine is currently sitting third with 144, 353 votes for 9.8 percent. After sitting on the fence in 2005, this election is likely Brumskine's last attempt at the presidency and many political observers say it is unlikely that he will sit on the fence this time around Brumskine's decision to sit on the fence in 2005 caused many of his supporters to break ranks feeling the decision put them in to doghouse from getting jobs in the Sirleaf administration.

During the heat of the campaign trail, Brumskine was at odds with Boakai who accused him of receiving financial assistance from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

"I know what she's not doing for the Unity Party, but the people probably know what she's doing for other parties. We're asking her - the Unity Party is her party, it's the party that would bear her legacy and she ought to be supporting it," Boakai told FrontPageAfrica, in an apparent dig at Brumskine.

The LP standard bearer in response said: "I have heard this for a while from other Presidential candidates and their surrogates and even surrogates of the Vice President, but had decided not to respond, knowing that it is designed to distract [me] from the important issue of who is most prepared to lead our country.

But because such nonsense has been reiterated by a Presidential candidate, who is the sitting Vice President of the country, I now feel constrained to respond."

The Brumskine-Boakai feud continued at the debate when Brumskine threw several jabs at Boakai drawing ire from the vice President's supporters.

In past 48 to 72 hours, FrontPageAfrica has learned that despite threatening a lawsuit challenging the elections results, key members of the party's hierarchy are leaning toward throwing their weight behind Weah in the run-off. It is widely believed that Brumskine's 2005 decision is a major cause of the current the lingering rift between supporters of the two parties.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 10-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 2-1

Alexander Cummings, Alternative National Congress

THE LOWDOWN: The ANC leader's strong showing in these elections have got the attention of his doubters and skeptics with murmurs in the corridors of domestic politics suggesting that he could be the next viable opposition leader.

During the heat of the campaign trail, Cummings took the challenge to both Weah and Boakai, first challenging Weah to a debate, after the CDC's standard bearer took aim at his credential at Coca Cola and later, at Boakai, who he slammed from taking a helicopter ride to the southeast, instead of going by road to see the conditions of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

On Boakai's helicopter decision, Cummings said: "I respect our Vice President. I know vice President Boakai actually quite well, and I mean no disrespect to him. But if you don't experience what your people experience, I'm not sure if there is a strong incentive to fix it."

The ANC leader, who has amassed to date, 104, 125 votes for 7.1 percent, also took aim at Boakai's race car analogy during the first debate in which the Vice President insinuated that the reason he was able to do much as vice President because he was like a race car parked in a garage under Sirleaf:

Cummings retorted: "From what I know about race cars, if you park a race car in the garage for 12 years and it doesn't move, it becomes obsolete. Its parts get old, rusty, and no longer work.

After 12 years, the car itself would have become outdated, unable to compete with newer models on the road." Cummings indicated that the analogy does not suit the VP's case, who although he received over US$2M, had nothing substantial to show for such huge salaries every budget year.

"The best thing VP Boakai can do to himself is to apologize to the Liberian people," Cummings said.

The ANC leader was also engulfed in an exchange with Weah after the CDC's standard bearer questioned his credentials.

"Let him show up in the next debate and let's have the discussion in public," Cummings said.

"Let's see who can articulate, let's see who is clear on policies. If you read some of what they said, it's a carbon copy of what we've been saying around taking out wastes, around redirecting funds."

In the past 48 to 72 hours, multiple sources within the ANC confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that Cummings is still weighing up which direction he is leaning, but is said to be discussing with key members of the party's hierarchy and supporters on which we way he will eventually shift.

Once source however noted that whatever decision the ANC leader makes may be conditional on whether whoever he supports will make promise to push some of the issues he advocated for during his campaign, including fight against corruption, pay cut for lawmakers and addressing concerns for those lingering in abject poverty.

The source said, at the moment, the party is evenly split between whether it should go with Weah and the CDC from where the party broke to go its separate ways, or put the elections rhetoric aside and go with Boakai. Cummings is said to be more concerned about issues he trumpeted on the campaign trail than promises of jobs.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 5-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

Prince Y. Johnson, Movement For Democratic Reconstruction

THE LOWDOWN: The Senator from vote-rich Nimba has never shied away from anything or anyone. He has also not hidden his distaste for Weah. But again, he has equally not for Boakai, or anyone else.

In the past few weeks however, the Senator has been very vocal against Weah, cautioning that Weah's election will bring another war to Liberia.

"I am appealing to Ambassador George Weah because you have not become President yet, but you turned loose your men on people to stab them. When you become President, this country will go back to war," Johnson warned.

Johnson, who as expected is sweeping the votes in vote-rich Nimba, with 102,561 votes for 7.0 percent, charged: "It is not anyone's birthright to be President, therefore Senator Weah should not impose his will."

He accused the CDC leader recently of seeking votes from his county, Nimba. "He has gone to my county to shed my people's blood and this is unacceptable and the people of Nimba and everyone will be informed not to ever vote for George Weah.

Our people are mad and very angry and until an apology is extended to us, we will tell all Nimbaians (1.2 million) not to vote for Weah.

Weah has no control over his men, "just as Charles Taylor had no control. I had control over my men in combat."

Widely regarded as unpredictable and unstable, the Nimba County Senator has also thrown jabs at Boakai who he initially supported but later took a U-Turn cautioning Nimbians not to waste their votes on the Unity Party Candidate.

"I strongly believe electorally, the people of Nimba should not waste their votes behind Mr. Boakai who is 76-year-old, who has nothing to offer this country," Senator Johnson told his kinsmen. Boakai has no intention to think about taking his running mate from Nimba, all he wants is the votes of Nimba."

Johnson's anger was aimed at the vice President's decision not to take a vice President from Nimba. "If he wants Nimba support, he should take someone from Nimba. Though I am running, it doesn't matter to me who he takes. This is discouraging, regrettable and disappointing."

In the past 48 to 72 hours both Weah and Boakai have reached out to Senator Johnson for support and while many believe he is more than likely to lean toward Boakai, judging from his past utterances and actions, it is still uncertain although his past differences with former President Charles Taylor may prove to be a deciding factor in wake of Weah's decision to pick fellow Senator and former First Lady, Jewel as his running mate.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 |ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 10-1

Benoni W. Urey, All Liberian Party

THE LOWDOWN: With 22,822 votes tallied so far for 1.6 percent, Urey's dismal performance in these elections is still being debated. Regarded as one of the leading candidates heading into the race, some aides and skeptics believe, the man dubbed the richest man was low on resources to really make a strong push for the presidency despite a lot of initial promise.

The ALP leader's demeanor and utterances during the first debate offered a small hint about his direction. In support of the Boakai-Nuquay ticket, Urey averred that it was unfair to label the pair an indigenous ticket or that the ticket was driven by ethnicity.

"The Boakai-Nuquay ticket is an indigenous ticket but all my life I've known him (Boakai), he has never given me a reason to make me feel that he is indigenous. For the good of the country, we must end this nonsense."

Urey's support and defense of Boakai in the first debate brought him at odds with one of his strongest supporters, Henry Costa, who's "Wicked Ticket" campaign on his daily talk show is said to have been a major thorn in the Boakai campaign.

In the past 48 to 72 hours multiple sources have told FrontPageAfrica the Urey, who was once an ally to Weah and the CDC has been in discussions with both Weah and Boakai with both camps sounding confident that they could get Urey's support.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 |ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

Mills Jones, Movement For Economic Empowerment

THE LOWDOWN: No candidate came into these elections with more promise and expectations than the former governor of the Central Bank of Liberia. Dr. Jones's sudden withdrawal and perceived lack of interest in the Presidential run, raised eyebrows as the man dubbed, "The Poverty Doctor" who fizzled from the stage before making a cameo appearance at the last debate has only managed to accumulate 12, 270 votes for 0.8 percent.

Many political observers point to the bolting of his former aide, Clayton Duncan for his demise. While others say, the man who used a massive loan scheme during his time at the CBL just lost steam toward the end.

Jones has been critical of the Sirleaf government which he served. He previously flirted with Weah as a possible running mate but is also said to be bitter with the woman Weah eventually chose, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor. Jones reportedly showered a lot of resources on the former first lady in hopes that she would be his running mate but, according to sources, felt betrayed in the end.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

Macdella Cooper, Liberia Restoration Party

THE LOWDOWN: The fact that both she and Weah share a child together may not be a foregone conclusion that she may be leaning his way. But the standard bearer of the LRP, who has surprised a few people by a better-than-expected showing in these elections with 11,281 votes for 0.8 percent has already gone on record to say she is out of politics for the foreseeable future.

Cooper, who once flirted with the idea of becoming Weah's first lady, managed to reinvent herself into a candidate for the Liberian presidency. As the only woman in the race, she had hope her election would be a great step in the struggle for the women's movement.

"A lot of people talk about "women's empowerment" across the continent--especially in Liberia. People talk a lot of talk but rarely take a lot of action. I think people who are serious about getting women involved will put financial support behind women candidates.

A lot of people want to see women heads of state but nobody wants to financially support women-led initiatives--and by this I mean women's political campaigns or political careers. We need to start supporting women, not just morally, but financially, so that we can stop wishing that the men would change the world for us, but instead create a world that works for women."

Cooper's campaign was not without hiccups. Her first party, the Union of Liberia Democratic took her to court and won, forcing her to find another party.

Now armed with a fairly decent amount of votes and support, the next few days will see which way she swayed. Ms. Cooper did not return inquiries from FrontPageAfrica seeking input on where she might land.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 2-1

Dr. Henry Boimah Fahnbulleh, Liberia People's Party

THE LOWDOWN: One of the firebrands of the progressive era, Dr. Fahnbulleh, the former national security advisor to President Sirleaf, has so far managed 11,143 votes for 0.8 percent.

Even before the ballots were cast, Dr. Fahnbulleh showed his leanings of where he is more than likely to throw his support.

Quite recently, he slammed the CDC's standard bearer George Weah, declaring him as a footballer, and not a Presidential material. Dr. Fahnbulleh went on to say that Senator Weah lacks technical knowhow of governance, particularly serving in the nation's highest seat, arguing that Weah has not been tested politically in serving at the highest level of public leadership.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 10-1

Senator Oscar Cooper, Independent

THE LOWDOWN: The Margibi Senator whose campaign was dubbed the Oscar Cooper Experience has so far accumulated 9,805 votes for 0.7 percent.

Senator Cooper may be hoping that his campaign trail venom does not come back to haunt him. He had vowed during the heated campaign season, to fight with his sweat and blood to stop Vice President Joseph NyumahBoakai, standard bearer of the governing Unity Party from winning the Presidency, and effectively giving the UP a third term.

In fact, he declared: "Over my dead body, for the Vice President to win these elections, especially the presidency, we will put in all we have, including our blood and sweat to ensure he's far from the Liberian Presidency. The Liberian people are tired with poverty; I mean living below the poverty line."

Senator Cooper was also one of a handful of Senators who did not endorse Boakai's presidency.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 10-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 2-1

Macdonald Wento, United People's Party

THE LOWDOWN: The UPP standard bearer who once pledged to clean up the mess created by the Sirleaf-Boakai government has accumulated to date, 8,613 votes for 0.6 percent. He also happens to be the founding chair of the Congress for Democratic Change. He offered a hint last week when he paid a visit to the party's headquarters after reportedly conceding that he had lost his quest for the presidency.

When FrontPageAfrica inquired from him whether he was leaning in the direction of the CDC, Mr. Wento would only say, "I'm and one of the founding executives of the CDC."

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 10-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 2-1

Isaac G. Wiles, Democratic Justice Party

THE LOWDOWN: The former diplomat, former Deputy Minister of Justice and founder of the Education and Community Empowerment group (DIGWFECOE) aimed at improving the lives of Liberians in the slums, was not expected to do much in a race with 20 candidates and a less-than stellar political backing. He has so far accumulated 6,158 votes for 0.4 percent.

In the past, Wiles was critical of a Senate's recent statement accusing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Constitutional violation, slamming reports that President Sirleaf had tampered with the Constitutional Review Committee's report as unrealistic.

Simeon Freeman, Movement For Progressive Change

THE LOWDOWN: One of the fiercest critics of the Sirleaf administration, Freeman's showing in his latest attempt at the presidency has been dismal, only accumulating 6,290 votes for 0.4 percent.

Never one to shy away from criticizing his rivals, the DSTV executive took serious jabs at VP Boakai during the campaign season, blaming Boakai for the deteriorating living condition of the Liberian people and the lack of commitment to develop the country's infrastructure over the years.

Mr. Freeman alleged that over the past 12 years, VP Boakai has received US$25 million as Vice President of Liberia and head of the Senate, but has failed to carry out any development across the country, least to mention the VP's native Lofa County, to improve the living conditions of the people.

Mr. Freeman has charged that no point in time did the Unity Party Presidential hopeful visit the Ministry of Education to ascertain problems affecting that sector, or help in addressing the situation, "but is now running around to get votes from the people promising them better education if elected."

He has in the past described Weah as a tourist when Weah served as Peace Ambassador for Liberia.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 10-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

Aloysious M. Kpadeh, Independent

THE LOWDOWN: One of two clergymen in the race may require a divine intervention before coming to a decision as to who to throw his weight behind.

The clergyman who claimed he had received a revelation from God before embarking on his quest for the presidency was instrumental in aiding Liberian refugees on the Bujumbura Refugee Camp in neighboring Ghana is also the administrative Director at St. Clements University College. Rev. Kpadeh, the General Overseer of Chrida Church in Liberia, has been critical of Police raids to remove criminals off the streets of Monrovia, saying this is not solution to the problem of criminal gangs in the streets, terrorizing peaceful citizens.

The prophecy about his presidency did not come through but the clergyman has managed to accumulate 5,556 votes for 0.4 percent.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

Rev. Kennedy Sandy, Liberia Transformation Party

THE LOWDOWN: The second clergyman in the race is an old hand in politics following his first run in 2011. He did back Sirleaf in the second round of those elections and was rewarded with a job. On the eve of this year's campaign season, his campaign was rocked amid reports that he was pulling out of the race, a charge he would later deny. His latest entry into the race was a repeat of his last try, as he currently has accumulated 5,183 votes for only 0.3 percent.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

William W. Tuider, New Liberia Party

THE LOWDOWN: One of few southerners in the race for the Liberian Presidency has only managed 4,727 votes for 0.3 percent so far. After running on a campaign pledge aiming at a fresh start for Liberia, the businessman trumpeted as part of his message that his overriding desire to be President was motivated by his aspiration to improve the lives of Liberians and to transform Liberia into a modern prosperous nation, "beginning with a top-notch universal free educational system, and a justice system that will tackle corruption, the root cause of our nation's problem."

Aides to Tuider say he may throw his weight behind fellow southeasterner Weah although it is still unclear which direction he may eventually lean.

ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 2-1 | ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 7-1

George S. Dweh, Redemption Democratic Congress

THE LOWDOWN: One of two former warlords in the race, the Grand Gedeh kinsman is a former speaker of the erstwhile National Transitional Legislative Assembly who emerged out of the LURD rebel movement. A cousin to former President Samuel Kanyon Doe, Dweh managed to secure 3, 614 votes for a mere.

He has faced accusations that he was involved in the Lutheran Church Massacre as well as the gruesome killing of Johnny Nah and his newly married wife, Farmatta Sherman-Nah at the Sinkor Old Road during the early years of the war, charges he has denied.

Residents of the county have been critical of the government's handling of the accused Grand Gedeans linked to treason allegations.

War crimes issues aside, Dweh's bid for the presidency was never taken seriously but he did manage to accumulate 3,820 votes for a mere 0.3 percent.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 10-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 2-1

Jeremiah Z. Whapoe, Vision For Liberia Transformation (Volt)

THE LOWDOWN: A low-ranked candidate from vote-rich Nimba, Dr. Whapoe is a nephew to the late Jackson F. Doe, a standard bearer of the Liberia Action Party who was slain during the early days of the civil war. He prioritized agriculture on the campaign trail but the candidate who had pledged to be a formidable force prior to the elections has so far only managed 3,820 for votes for 0.3 percent.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

Yarkpajuwur N. Mator, Independent

THE LOWDOWN: The scientist, humanitarian and politician ran on a campaign to transform Liberia but with limited visibility find himself at the bottom of field of 201 candidates with a mere 1,862 votes for 0.1 percent.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 2-1 |ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 5-1

Wendell J. E. Mcintosh, Change Democratic Action

THE LOWDOWN: The CDA standard bearer has been a vocal critic of Boakai and the vice President's role in the failed Foya rice project. McIntosh trumpeted his agriculture expertise on the campaign trail but it is his red flag on the controversial US$30 million from the Government of the late Muammar Gaddafi for Liberia's agricultural development that has brought him into the headlines.

He has frowned on the recycling of politicians who are only interested in enriching themselves and their immediate families, instead of seeking the interest of the vast majority of the Liberian people who are drowning in abject poverty. Despite his advocacy however, his campaign never really got off the grown and he looks poised to finish at the very bottom of the 20-candidate Presidential race field.

ODDS TO BACK BOAKAI: 10-1 | ODDS TO BACK WEAH: 2-1

The End Game

In the next 48 to 72 hours and beyond, the jockeying for alliances and strange-bedfellows is likely to intensify, Weah and the CDC have reportedly been pitching a unity government in hopes of building a strong government of inclusion that will bring together members of various political parties it hopes will come to their corner in the run-off. The Boakai camp will likely pitch similar ideas in hopes of also building its own core of alliances that it hopes will seal victory and break off the dominance Weah and the CDC exhibited in the first round.

Unlike the first round, the runoff is poised to be eclipsed by a number of intricacies and complications. Both parties have by now realized that the crowd politics which dominated the first round may not be a factor here. It appears that financing and the issues will be key as both parties look to get the edge on the other.

For Boakai, who relied heavily on Tubman-style endorsements choreographed by lawmakers from both houses in the national legislature, it is a return to the drawing board to correct the many frailties that his aides now acknowledged proved costly, particularly in the Western belt comprising Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bomi, all considered Boakai's stronghold, going into the elections but all swept by Weah and the CDC.

Issues in Margibi where Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay should have been a factor for Boakai could offer perhaps the strongest dilemma for the ruling party. Nuquay's support for the opposition candidate is said to be a key reason why the county voted blue for CDC.

Margibi County is just one of several challenges facing the ruling party who will likely struggle also in Grand Bassa, River Cess and Sinoe. Multiple sources in the UP camp have confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that Boakai has sanctioned a number of shakeup in hopes of correcting some of those wrongs.

One of those likely to be brought in is Edwin Melvin Snowe, the former speaker who was sideline, as were several others closed to President Sirleaf in the first round, is expected to be more visible in the runoff as Boakai makes a play in the western belt.

While multiple reports in the last 24 hours point toward a major shakeup of the Boakai camp, Wilmot Paye, the party's Chairman told the VOA's Daybreak Africa that it is more about making adjustments.

"What's happening is that the campaigning period for the runoff election is usually two weeks. So obviously, you have to make some adjustments, not necessarily by replacing your team with new people and all that."

He added: "We are not talking about changing the guard. It's about modifying, adding new people, redeploying our resources appropriately and within the limited time that we have."

"I think that is most important. All of our actors, all of our team members, we are grateful to them for the contributions they've made and the work they have done. What is important is too beef those efforts up a little bit. That's what is important."

Mr. Paye explained that deployment of resources will be key.

"The relative luxury of time we had for the campaigning period before the first ballot is not exactly what we have for the Presidential runoff. What is important is that we have the machinery already, and we have all the different actors across the country, people that are coming over and pledging to support us should there be a runoff, which now has become the reality."

For Weah and the CDC, the math on paper appears to be simple, maintain a grip on the counties it won in the first round and don't allow Boakai to make gains as the ruling party look to cut into the ten-point gap advantage the CDC enjoys.

Most importantly for the CDC, it is the obvious soft target, former first lady Jewel Howard Taylor who will continue to endure the bulk of the criticisms from Boakai's supporters.

Concerns over the influence of former President Charles Taylor on the Weah-Taylor ticket has been expressed both locally and internationally with many seeing the Jewel factor as a major Achilles for Weah's bid for the presidency.

As post-war Liberia prepares for its third successive runoff elections, featuring the same two political parties, a number of questions remain unanswered: Did Boakai's decision to engage in a fight with the incumbent President cost him a first-round victory? How will the party regroup for the runoff and most importantly, would Boakai and the party makes a play to reach out to President Sirleaf?

Paye insists there is no feud with the President.

"There is no feud between the two as I know as national chairman of the party. What has happened over the years and which will continue to happen is that being the diverse political that we are, there will continue to be disagreement.

But what is also important which people need to understand is that if the vice President must elected as President of this country, he must be elected on his track record, on the 40 years that he has served this country very, very diligently without any bad record; his integrity that has no comparison among even the most recent contenders. So, what is fundamental to us is the asset that he brings, the kind of quality leadership that he brings, his appreciation and understanding of the Liberian political and cultural mosaic of our country."

Equally, for Weah and the CDC, the million-dollar question remains, how will the party ease concerns over the Taylor debacle and how will the party brush off concerns that Sirleaf is working behind the scenes to ensure a Weah victory.

Whichever way these elections end, the world is watching keenly to see how Liberia votes: A field of twenty candidates have been downed to two - an ageing vice President and a retired former world footballer of the year, both battling for a shot at the presidency in the backdrop of an election year where change has been the visible mantra and hope restlessly lurking on the fringes of a nation looking toward restoring its political and economic sanity.

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