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Charles Brumskine Bets on God to Help Win Liberia Election


As part of our series on Liberia's leading presidential candidates in its upcoming post- conflict election, VOA's Nico Colombant profiles Charles Brumskine, a former ally of the disgraced and exiled ex-President Charles Taylor, who says he believes he can win with the help of God. Most analysts put him in the top three, but not into a possible second round run-off.

The 54-year-old born-again Christian, Charles Brumskine, has been attracting large crowds at rallies in the capital Monrovia and in the countryside, often mixing politics with religion.

"Our mission here is the remaking of our country under the rule of law, by God's command," he said. "Liberia was founded with a national vision of establishing justice, ensuring domestic peace and promoting the general welfare of all of our people. That is the national vision, the Liberty Party has incorporated into a contract with the Liberian people. The contract is based on four pillars, reforming our country, reconciling our people, recovering our economy and rebuilding our infrastructure."

At one of his Liberty Party rallies, one supporter says Mr. Brumskine's strong religious convictions give him particular appeal.

"The message he gave is that we should keep courage because our party is the party of God," said the supporter. "We are going to pray to God because God knows we are the winning party of Liberia."

This supporter also thinks Mr. Brumskine can make change happen.

"I love him because he is the only one that can rule this country," he commented. "He is going to open schools, roads and he has already started. He's going to bring some NGOs to feed the country so that is why we want him to become president for us."

Questioned about how his association with Mr. Taylor may impact his candidacy, Mr. Brumskine told the following to VOA.

"The best thing that ever happened to me was being in this government because for the first time in 50 years of our political leadership, of our political history, under my leadership as president of the Senate, president pro tempore, the Liberian senate operated independent of the executive branch," noted Mr. Brumskine. "Also I am the only person in the race who went into a government regardless of which government it was and came out more popular when I went out than when I went in,"

Mr. Brumskine says he fled Liberia in 1999 after Taylor thugs were apparently trying to track him down. He returned to Liberia in early 2003, saying he would compete in elections against Mr. Taylor, who was still in power, even as rebels were advancing on Monrovia.

Crowds in the capital lined the street for his return and after that many Liberians could be seen wearing tee-shirts that read "Friends of Brumskine".

Late last year, Mr. Brumskine started an informal presidential campaign with a road show of church services across remote areas.

But analysts, like Chris Melville from the London-based research group Global Insight, say now that two other candidates have appeared at the forefront of the campaign, former soccer star George Weah and former minister Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, Mr. Brumskine must make a new push to find his electorate.

"Brumskine kind of belongs to this sort of old elite that established itself in the 1970s," said Mr. Melville. "To be honest, I suspect it is going to be a case of him acquiring a constituency rather than falling back on his natural constituency."

According to one newspaper headline, an effort to get the religious vote might even have backfired, after Church leaders, pledging a neutral and non-partisan stance, condemned other clergy members who had publicly backed Mr. Brumskine.

But the candidate predicted to VOA he will win with a majority outright in the first round. This, he says, is a statement of faith.

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