Monrovia – A few months ago, it would have been inconceivable for anyone to imagine Liberty Party’s Charles Walker Brumskine, Alternative National Congress’ Alexander Cummings, ruling Unity Party’s Joseph Boakai and All Liberia Party’s Benoni Urey sitting in a room full of journalists cracking jokes - and who would believe it, being on the same page.
Senator Prince Y. Johnson tried it last September in what at the time proved to be a promising attempt at bringing members of opposition together in hopes of unseating the ruling Unity Party government.
Dubbed the Ganta Declaration, the leaders of twelve political parties signed a communiqué agreeing to work together and collaborate for victory in the ensuing 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
The two-day gathering brought together Senator Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), Brumskine, Urey, Alexander Cummings of Alternative National Congress (ANC) and Senator George Manneh Weah of the then Congress for Democratic Change, now Coalition for Democratic Change.
The gathering also brought together representatives of the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP), Victory for Change Party (VCP), New Liberia Party (NLP), Vision for Liberia Transformation (VOLT), Union of Liberian Democrats (ULD) and Liberian Nation Union (LINU).
Midway to the eve of the thick of a brutal political campaign season, it was clear that egos and differences of ideas would stand in the way of anything close to a united front.
The end result was a field of 20 Presidential candidates eyeing the presidency of a nation on the mends from war embarking on a historic completion of a miraculous transition from war to peace.
By midday Tuesday, murmurs of a meeting involving four of the top six finishers in the first round of this year’s Presidential race was in the works.
Two of those, Senators Weah and Johnson were not in attendance. Weah won the first round after obtaining a total of 596,037 votes, constituting 38.4 percent, followed by Boakai who obtained a total of 446,716 votes, amounting to 28.8 percent.
The Liberty Party of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine obtained a total of 149,495 votes, amounting to 9.6 percent, followed by Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, MDR who got a total of 127,666 votes, constituting 8.2 percent, while Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress, ANC obtained a total of 112,067 votes amounting to 7.2 percent of the total votes cast on October 10, 2017.
Johnson has already thrown his weight behind Weah and the pair have made a number of campaign appearances in Johnson’s vote-rich Nimba County.
For the four – Boakai, Brumskine, Cummings and Urey, Tuesday’s show of unity came a day after the Supreme Court of Liberia ordered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to refrain from conducting the runoff election between soccer legend George Weah and current Vice President Joseph Boakai.
LP alleges among other things that there were several irregularities on voting day, a claim that is now being supported by the ALP, ANC and the ruling UP.
For Brumskine, the scheme has been long in the making.
The LP political leader told the BBC last week that his party have pieces of evidence showing massive irregularities.
“We have evidence that the cover top of ballot boxes were removed after polling had been closed and ballots had been counted, boxes had been sealed and the covers of those boxes were removed in order for presiding officers to open the box and put in ballots that they wanted to put in."
"We have some of those covers in our possession. We have submitted into evidence, photos of those covers to the Elections Commission."
"We discovered hundreds of ballots in Grand Gedeh County that had been taken out of the ballot box and thrown away.”
The LP standard bearer also alleges that poll officers in Nimba were arrested because they had pre-marked ballots that they wanted to stuff the ballot boxes with and the first round winner, Weah had more votes at polling centers than registered voters.
“George Weah received 1,109 votes at a polling place that should not have had more than 500 registered voters.”
Harping on a theme from his campaign trail, ANC Cummings said after Tuesday’s meeting that Liberia cannot continue to do things the old way and expect new results.
“This is about our country, this is about Liberia. I said during my campaign that we cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results; because we may have had problems in the past with our results doesn’t mean we should accept it this time around."
"The one thing we are united is that we do not believe that the recent election reflects the will of the Liberian people and this is our primary goal.
We want to make sure that this process follows the rules, the laws and the Constitution of our country.”
Much of the comments after Tuesday’s close-door meeting was dedicated to praise of Brumskine, the LP leader whose challenge of the election results has triggered a legal wrangle on the verge of leading to a possible constitutional crisis depending on how far the ongoing legal war tests the limits of Liberia’s bourgeoning democracy.
“Today is a great day for Liberia,” declared Urey."
“The fact that the four of us can gather here in unity shows the world that Liberia still remains a united country and that we are still capable of fighting for our people.”
Urey paid homage to Brumskine for braving the storm in challenging the process at the level of the Supreme Court with the purpose of preserving democracy in Liberia.
Adding his voice, the incumbent Vice President, Boakai also trumpeted Brumskine for being the one to have taken the lead in the legal process and we have intervened with him. “We want to say that this is good day for Liberia that the four of us can come together for a cause of our country. "
"We have committed ourselves in ensuring that this election would be peaceful, credible and the standard that we respect and will bring dignity to our country. Unfortunately, the process was peaceful but not fair and credible and did not meet and represent the will of the Liberian people.”
For his part, Cllr. Cllr. Brumskine said there can be no democracy if the rule of law is not adhered to. “We realize that there can be no democracy unless the will of the people is reflected in the outcome of the election”.
With so much lingering uncertainty, many political observers are hoping for a speedy outcome to the political impasse, now threatening to derail Liberia’s post-war democratic sojourn. While some diplomatic and political observers are hailing the use of the courts to remedy the fracas, the fear of an emerging constitutional crisis is creating a cautious atmosphere with many unsure what to make of the future unknown.
The unknown appears to be bordering the lines of not just a constitutional crisis but what would happen if this process continues to drag on? How will the National Elections Commission respond to the high court verdict and most importantly, how serious is the talk of a delay of the process, forcing an interim government?
Would elections be delayed and how much longer?
Are there plans to sit in a new legislature, leading to the new speaker becoming acting President?
Amid the shortage of answers, the incumbent, Sirleaf, on the last leg of her presidency is hopeful that Liberia will weather the storm through this period of uncertainty in the post-war nation’s electoral process.
“Liberia’s laws and democratic institutions are strong. They will withstand this challenge, and they will stand the test of time,” the President said in a statement Tuesday.
But while President Sirleaf has expressed satisfaction that all political parties have agreed consistently and publicly to adhere to the provisions provided under Liberian laws, some skeptics see a potential danger for Sirleaf, especially after all five members of the high court ruled in the opposition’s favor in a ruling that could reshape the outcome many believe Sirleaf desires.
Brumskine, Cummings, Boakai and Urey are all hoping that provisions within the laws will turn the tide even as many are unsure whether this will lead to a rerun of the elections or a runoff.
Waiting in the wings, is Weah.
A news conference called for Tuesday was rescheduled for a later date with many expressing concerns over the conspicuous silence of the CDC standard bearer in the wake of recent developments surrounding the elections and the looming threat of those challenging the first round results.
For now, Sirleaf finds herself in a delicate predicament where she is at war with her own party and Vice President. With both on opposite sides of the aisle, Sirleaf sees dangers on the horizon.
“Democracy is only as strong as its weakest link and at moments when the nation’s democracy is under assault.
“Our country’s reputation is under assault, our economy is under stress. We politicians must do better. Our people went the distance.
We achieved 73 percent voters’ turnout demonstrating confidence in our electoral process and the future of our country.”