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There’s a lot of anticipation in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia where a by-election to fill a vacant senate seat is taking place Tuesday.
The seat was made vacant by the death of Senator Hannah Brent of George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change party.
Rodney Sieh, publisher of the online magazine FrontPage Africa said the by-election is a litmus test for Liberia's major political parties.
“For example, the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, the George Weah party is being closely watched because if they lose this election, it would show that his education credential which were a problem in 2005 is still be a problem,” he said.
Sieh also said the senatorial by-election is especially seen as a referendum on incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government.<!-- IMAGE -->
“The incumbent, her legacy is on the line because a victory here would solidify her candidacy for 2011. But a defeat will definitely cause her to rethink her position,” Sieh said.
He said the Sirleaf administration is pulling all the stops to ensure a victory.
“Make no mistake this election is very, very important. That is why the ruling party is spending a lot of money to make sure that they come out victorious.In fact, there’s been lots of talk of voting malpractices around the country,” Sieh said.
In June this year, Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report in which it recommended barring certain politicians, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from holding public office for the next 30 years because of their support for armed groups during Liberia’s civil war.
Sieh said former rebel leader and now University of Liberia Professor Alhaji Kromah survived a challenge to his candidacy for the by-election, especially in the wake of the Truth Commission recommendation.
“The fact that he (Alhaji Kromah) won his case in the Supreme Court and with the National Election Commission shows that it’s a good sign for the president because she’s also on the (Truth Commission) list. So if he were allowed to run, I think he has already won a victory,” he said.
But Sieh said if Kromah loses Tuesday’s by-election, it would show the Liberian people are not happy with the fact that he Kromah defied the truth commission to contest the election,” Sieh said.
Sieh said the ruling Unity Party is also dismissing criticisms of vote buying on the part its candidate Clemenceau Urey.
“A lot of newspapers have been publishing pictures of people showing up their ballots that they supposedly sold or bought from somebody’s party…There have been a lot of cases where people have seen or reported that they have been approached by the ruling party to sell their voting to the Clemenceau Urey candidacy,” Sieh said.
He said the election commission has yet to comment or to put out a policy statement on the complaints of alleged vote buying.<!-- IMAGE -->