Top 5 Elections To Watch In Africa And Predictions For 2017

Kurt Davis Jr.
Written by Kurt Davis Jr.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Photo: Afrika News

Liberia

 

If the Kenya election has people on the edge of their seats, the Liberian election on Oct. 10 will have people being reflective more than anything else. It’s the end of the presidency for Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf — Africa’s first female president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, stalwart in the economic rebuilding in Liberia, and overall appreciated figure in the fight against Ebola. Her departure will leave some international and local spectators in a haze. The reality is that the next leader will still face an uphill battle, despite the current president’s success, in restoring economic hope with low commodity prices likely to hang over the country’s economy.

There has been a lack of debate and public discussion on candidates. Many critics suggest that contestants in the 2017 election are worried about critiquing the current president. Johnson-Sirleaf is popular. Many are unsure on how to grade the administration and worry about making promises to constituents knowing that the next president will be hamstrung by a limited national budget. That said, a few competitors are key to watch.

Vice President Joseph Boakai will likely lead the ruling party but will need Johnson-Sirleaf to articulate her successes so that the base will buy in. There’s an Obama-Clinton-esque feel to this aspect of the election for the ruling party. There’s some irony in this description for the country founded by free blacks who fled from the U.S. Former Liberian soccer player and current Senator George Weah will be a front runner, having contested in the 2005 and 2011 elections. His policy focuses are on improved education, in particular vocation training, religious peace and economic growth. A wild card may be Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex wife of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was convicted in 2012 of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. Jewel is viewed as the second most powerful woman in Liberian politics, having been twice elected senator from Bong County. The county has the third-highest number of registered voters in Liberia. Others to watch include former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings, the former governor of the Central Bank of Liberia Mills Jones, and Liberian attorney Charles Brumskine.

Who will win? This looks like an election made for the opposition to win. Brumskine, who finished third in 2005 election, is very popular and could leapfrog Senator Weah. It will be close and the current president will have to do a lot to ensure her party does not finish third at the end of the day.