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Elections 2005: Implications for the 2nd Round Balloting

By Syrulwa Somah, PhD (November 8th 2005)    

"...The Liberian voters know soccer star George Weah and Harvard trained public administrator, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf enough to make a sound decision. Like Deborah and Josiah, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George Weah both were not intimidated by the talents, age, nor experience of Liberian men and women during the October 11, 2005 election. ...”

Like many Liberians, I am happy that the first rounds of balloting in the 2005 Liberian presidential and legislative elections pressed ahead as planned on October 11, 2005, without any incidence of violence. Except for a few minor reports of electoral irregularities, the elections are said to have been free and fair, if not totally transparent. I am very happy and proud because the 2005 elections in Liberia have been very exciting and violence-free that our nation has, as least as far as I am concerned, lifted the bar for a peaceful and cordial democratic electoral process not only in Africa but also in the entire Black World. But it equally grieves my heart, as a bodo-dyu or son of the soil of Liberia that the electoral process came to a standstill in the first rounds due to the lack of common courtesy and recognition of my suggestions. And now the runoff is Tuesday, November 8, 2005. What should we do or not do as a nation at this critical point?

First, I had suggested both in writing and to the Chairman of the National Elections Commission in person that given the multiplicities of political parties and independent candidates, vis-à-vis the eligible voters of Liberia, that it would be impossible for any single candidate to amass the required 51 percent total votes to become President of Liberia. I therefore proposed a "Tetrahedron Primary" system, or a four-step electoral system of First primary, Second primary, Run–off primary, and Final election, that could have eased the current need for second round of balloting to elect the next president of Liberia.

I had proposed that in the first and second primaries, only candidates with the highest votes, say 40-45 percent of the popular vote, could move into the next round of voting, while the runoff primary would be restricted to cases in which three candidates are evenly tied in the number of popular votes. Under my proposed system, no run-off primary election would be permitted even if a candidate wins by a single (one) vote margin, as long as the national elections commission could certify the first or second primary elections were free and fair, and that both the process of the elections and the election results are verifiable. In other words, if majority of the votes cast could be verified, the losing candidate’s bid for the presidency or whatever office he or she was seeking would respectfully be over for that particular election. Run-off elections may be necessary only if three candidates emerge from the second primary with nearly equal votes of say 48 percent of the popular votes for two of the three candidates, and 47 percent for the third candidate.

In this case, the two candidates with 48 percent of the popular votes would be eligible for the run-off primary, and the candidate with 47 percent of the popular votes would be effectively disqualified from running in the next rounds of the elections. Such free and fair electoral process could minimize civil strife and destructive radicalism, and eliminate any violent acts against the nation because the people would have freely spoken with their votes. The will of the Liberian people would also be clear at this point, and both the winning and losing candidates would do well to respect the will of the people. And anyone who looses the national election after all possible legal challenges must endeavor to work for attainment of the national development objectives of the Liberian nation and people.

For counting the votes, I have presented below a county electoral point system not based on each Liberian county’s geographical size, but on the population of each county in relation to data available from the 1984 national referendum in Liberia. The only exception to this rule is the two new counties of Gbarpolu and River Gee, in which case population and county points were projected based on geographical size. Also, current Liberian population is projected at somewhere between 2.8 and 3.4 million people, and county electoral points are limited to a 100 percent statistical range. And In this regard, I did propose a point distribution per county based on geographic and population variables, which I represented in the following table:




(1984 Figures)


Electoral Points




Nimba County

393, 404


Bong County



Lofa County

245, 901


Grand Bassa County



Margibi County



Grand Gedeh County



Bomi County



Maryland County



Grand Cape Mount County



Sinoe County



Grand Kru County

43, 378


River Cess County



Gbarpolu County



River Gee County

20,000 (Projected)




100 %

Electoral Regions of Liberia

In addition, I proposed the establishment of coordinated regional electoral systems to not only ensure the fairness and transparency of the local and national elections in Liberia, but to also minimize the high costs of transporting ballot boxes and election commissioners back and forth from Monrovia during elections. So I believe the most efficient and practical solution to this problem is to create three electoral regions in Liberia to include a West Region, a Central Region, and an East Region. With the establishment of these regional voting divisions, national elections such as those for president and legislators could then be conducted sequentially in each region on specific dates as represented in the table below:

 West Region

(Voting Day One)

Central Region

(Voting Day Two)

East Region

(Voting Day Three)
Grand Cape Mount
Grand Bassa County
Grand Gedeh County
Lofa County
Bong County
Maryland County
Bomi County
River Cess County
River Gee
Montserrado County
Nimba County
Grand Kru County
Gbarpolu County
Margibi County
Sinoe County

Voting and Voters Education

While at it, let me mention another part of our proposal that was published under “Charting A New Direction for A Traumatized Liberia" (visit the following sources: The proposal has a Radiolization Plan, which calls for the provision of 5-10 thousand solar/warned radio to help our people listen to the elections activities. The idea was also unique because 80% of our people are unemployed and cannot afford to buy batteries. Like the proposal for the use of the “Tetrahedron Primary" system, we proposed to the elections commission to liaise with the traditional friends of Liberia, including Germany, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States, to secure SBS-1 Radio Station in a Suitcase C/W 100 Watt FM Stereo units for each county. Solar panel and rechargeable battery cost $2 to $3.00 each, while solar powered radios cost about $25.00 each, and the fact that the radio depends on sun energy to run would be very helpful to our people during the elections, as money is scarce in Liberia nowadays.

Our Radiolization Plan to educate the Liberian mass unlettered voters was pushed under the rug, but when the UN Special Representative to Liberia, Mr. Jack Klein, decided to implement a similar plan, it became news headlines, although it was never implemented and he left the country. As I mentioned earlier, voters’ education is very crucial to the electoral process in Liberia. Now we are hearing that two organizations, the European Commission Bi-Lateral Elections Program (EC Bi-Lateral) and the Liberian Council of Churches have discovered that 37,107 votes amounts to an estimate of 3.8% of the total votes cast which are invalid citing illiteracy and lack of familiarity with voting (Gray, 2005). Second, our people are asked to call in to radio shows to express their views when they do not have money to buy cell phones. I leave that for another day.
Well, enough said. I do not want to beat the horse to death. Many of our power brokers and policy makers, including our sister, Francis Morris, did not listen and accepted our proposal, nor did the news media educate our people or capitalize on our proposal and run with it. Therefore, we are at ground zero and now faced with a run-off, which will definitely require expending financial resources. What should we do now?

Way Out

Accept him or her who wins! First, the Christian Holy Books tells us that after the death of Joshua, the man who had led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, God raised up judges to lead and rule Israel. The first Judges God used were Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar. And then came Deborah, was very a well-respected woman with unquestionable leadership qualities. She told Barak, the head solider in Israel, to attack Sisera, the commander of the enemy forces against Israel, but Barak was afraid to implement her instruction and insisted that she come with him. Barak knew that with Deborah's presence there would be absolute victory because of the respect and confidence the people of Israel had in Deborah. At the end of the war Deborah became not only the leader of the Nation, but also the counsel needed to help settle the nation’s disputes, which inspired commendation and respect from all the people. Moreover, the land had peace for forty years due to her leadership (Judges 4 and 5).

Ellen Johnson-Sireafff is a Deborah to a lot of Liberians who believe socio-economic and political development is assured when she is at the helm of power in the Executive Mansion. She is a well-respected woman with unquestionable leadership qualities with good records from the Liberian Ministry of Finance to the World Banks, and over several generations to lead the Liberian nation. If God chooses her we must embrace her administration and work with her and ask God to exemplify His power by giving her pebbles with which to fight our battle if she wins. It will be haphazard and counterproductive to wholesome peace and permanence in Liberia to ignore the voices of the massive.
The Christian Holy Books also tells about Josiah, one of the great kings of Judah. Josiah became king as a child of only eight, and not only took an interest in God but early on instituted several national reforms for the betterment of his nation. Immediately, Josiah set upon a sweeping administration to eliminate moral failure and to renew the ancient covenant of God. He toured the land, destroying immoral shrines, and celebrated the Passover for the first time in decades. This national revival or new paradigm from the 8 year old boy changed the nation of Israel. At age 25, Josiah had rebuilt God’s temple and the workers of Israel had found an obscure book that no one had ever heard of.

To a lot of Liberians, Mr. Weah is Liberia’s Josiah whose capability can immediately and energetically bring lasting peace to the Liberia. Like Josiah, Weah can restore pride to our nation. He is respected enough by the international community to have earned the title of UNICEF Ambassador, Winner of Arthur Ashe Award, and many others. If God chooses him we must embrace his administration and work with him and ask God to exemplify His power by giving him pebbles with which to fight our battle if he wins.

The Liberian voters know soccer star George Weah and Harvard trained public administrator, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf enough to make a sound decision. Like Deborah and Josiah, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George Weah both were not intimidated by the talents, age, nor experience of Liberian men and women during the October 11, 2005 election. As the voters go in droves to the polls to choose between both individuals, my take on this is we should not zero on the deeply divided Liberian voters now. Any political election will always produce some kind of opposing side, but a verifiable, fair, and just election’s results from the Liberian voters must satisfy the defeated candidate. Liberia is no exception. Since we didn’t minimize the division at the very beginning, our focus now should be on post-election suggestions for corruption management, strong legislatures, disciplined military under a Civil Review Board as proposed by Liberian History, Education and development (LIHEDE), hiring the best brains Liberian can offer, and national healing process. Engaging the administration of the winner of the run-off on November 8, 2005, will save all of us a lot of headaches. Liberian long reigning President Tubman once said that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Based on Tubman and the scriptures, the voice of the Liberia people is the voice of God. We must look at the heart of these two Liberians not the appearances. My take on it is that he or she who is elected will be my leader because that is who my fellow Liberians gave me. My moral and ethnical responsibility is to help make the president-elect better.


Our nation has already made history! This legacy is what we should pontificate as a nation and as a people. Second, whoever loses on November 8, 2005, shouldn’t be forced to think, ‘All my ideas about my country are wrong.’ The political party that does not win ideas is not wrong, and it is not a loser. Furthermore, the defeated party shouldn’t refuse to work for the nation but rather should be partners in nationhood for the brotherhood of humanity. In the past those who didn’t get their will thought that working for the success of the winning party government would help the president not our nation. Weighty evidence shows that defeated candidates have gone to a foreign donor’s countries to lobby against Liberia not to receive needed funds. If a candidate is defeated on November 8, 2005, and the president gives qualified individuals positions, they should accept the offer because they will be working for Liberia, not the president-elect. If we have never lobbied before to bring money to build our nation, the time has come. When the United States Democratic Party wins an election, do all the Republicans resign or refuse to work? I think not.
In fact, the immediate action for all of us must be to work with the president for the national recovery of our nation from the ashes of the civil wars. Edmund Burke warns: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". The consequence of our inaction in the past is vividly captured in the parable of the “talent.” During one of his teaching, Jesus describes a man who did nothing with the money he receives from his Lord. His course of action was to dig in the earth and hide his Lord's money (Matt. 25:18). When his Lord returns, the man gives back to the Lord only what was entrusted to him (Matt. 25:25). We all know that the servant did not do any outright evil, such as stealing the money, but then neither did he do anything commendable. In other words, he did nothing and he got nothing good accomplished.
Throughout the corridor of our 159 years history of the struggle between action and inaction can be explained by Edmund Burke's observation and the parable of the “talent” servant. Our nation has too many “talent” citizens. Time and again Liberians who profess to be nationalists seem to clearly outnumber those who think less for our nation, yet those who think less seem to prevail far too often. Seldom is it the numbers that ascertain the outcome, but rather those who claim to be nationalists are willing to stand up and fight for what they know to be right. The consequences of our educated or “talent” abandoning our nation because of who the leader was, especially in the case of Presidents Samuel K. Doe, is still stenciled on our memory. Liberia lost a chance so it is a ruined nation today. And not only have we been traumatized by 25 years of turmoil, violence, bedlam and heartbreak, but also we have lost everything we hold dear as a nation and as a people. This is what happens when educated people do nothing; they are no longer the center of conscious. Their collective failure and refusal to meet the real foe, refuting error and fighting the common enemy equally makes them an enemy of the people.
While the conduct of these so-called “not fit” for Liberian leadership is reprehensible, shameful, and appalling, what about those supposedly "good" men or educated who do nothing? Those stand on the other side and do nothing but watch as their nation, brothers and sisters, are being slandered, slaughtered and devoured. They cease being innocent bystanders and idle citizens. Their failure to act not only allows evil to triumph, but makes them just as guilty as the political cannibals whose administration they refuse to work with.
If we love this nation, let our pride and power of nationalism, sovereignty and self-respect be your guide, as you sleep over this matter for the next few days. When you carry this matter to sleep, the God of our Ancestors will lead our people right to elect a leader who will remain unflappable in his or her desire to hire qualified Liberians who can build our nation. An elected president by majority votes and willing Liberians are the "mighty in spirit", lovers and unifiers of our nation that we need. So we shouldn’t lose this chance, perhaps, the only chance to develop our nation if Weah or Johnson-Sirleaf wins.
As aforementioned, the "Tetrahedron Primary" system would have stopped Liberians from being split in the middle Congo vs. Country people or book people vs. unlettered as some of our brothers’ and sisters’ lips are dripping with divisive epithet which, in the past have severed our nation. Our best option is for every one of us, even the worse criminal, ex-combatant, corrupt, educated and un-lettered who has his/her good side, to offer a greater chance of early engagement in a developing produce to negate national leadership failure. In other words, Liberians must be proactive and engage the incoming president early to do the right thing. The question must not be my party, my candidate, my ethnicity, my tribe, my organizations or what have you. The question to all Liberians must be, are we nationalist enough to save Liberia? If our collective response is resounding “Yes”, our nation can be saved, our lives can be saved, our families, our friends, our ethnicity, tribe (if you have one) and those who are yet to be born can have lasting peace. I am convinced that our nation is blessed with the human resources and wealth we need to build a great nation, except for the genuine love and unity or nationalism; and once we get nationalism we are through. Genuine love and unity mean nation or Liberia first. May we all learn to be men and women after Liberia’s own heart by supporting whoever wins the presidency?

Syrulwa Somah, Ph.D., is an Associate Tenured Professor of Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is the author of several books, including, The Historical Resettlement of Liberia and It Environmental Impact, Christianity, Colonization and State of African Spirituality, and Nyanyan Gohn-Manan: History, Migration & Government of the Bassa (a book about traditional Bassa leadership and cultural norms published in 2003). Dr. Somah is also the Executive Director of the Liberian History, Education & Development, Inc. (LIHEDE), a nonprofit organization based in Greensboro, North Carolina. He can be reached at: or

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