The American professor at the center of what is becoming a pre-election scandal in Liberia says he played no role in preparing a pre-election analysis for the ruling Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The Online Liberian publication FrontPage Africa reported over the weekend that Larry Gibson, a law professor at the University of Maryland prepared a pre-election analysis in which he advised the ruling party that it faces a tall order in the coming October elections and that the party should keep its connections at the National Elections Commission.
Gibson, who admits he did some work for the 2005 election campaign of then-candidate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said he did not do any poll analysis for the October election.
“This report is fascinating and totally fictitious. I paid no attention to Liberian politics for several years. Other than the fact that President Sirleaf is running for re-election, I can’t even tell who the other candidates are or exactly when the election is. So, I prepared no poll, no analysis, [and] no report. I haven’t been in Liberia since 2009,” he said.
Unity Party National Chairman Varney Sherman told VOA Monday that it was his understanding that Gibson might have sent the first round election analysis to Elva Richardson, executive assistant to President Sirleaf, although Sherman said Richardson told party officials she never received any such information.
An e-mail purported to be from Gibson to Richardson reads: “Elva, please give this attached analysis to the president, as we discussed. I have also sent a copy to Robert Sirleaf [the president’s son] and Amara Konneh [planning minister]."
Gibson said he sent no such poll analysis to Richardson or anyone else.
“Mr. Sherman’s statement is also not true. I sent no report to Ms. Richardson or anyone else with the party. The last I knew of Mr. Sherman he was a candidate against Ms. Sirleaf. So, his report is also inaccurate,” Gibson said.
He said perhaps another Larry Gibson might have sent the alleged pre-election poll analysis.
The University of Maryland Law School website said Gibson “has served as a campaign consultant and political advisor to African political leaders, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, and Marc Ravalomanana, the former President of Madagascar.”
Gibson admits he did some work for then candidate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s campaign in 2005.
“As reported in her book, and I think fairly accurately, in her first election, I did provide some assistance and certainly some advice to her campaign, and her autobiography is quite accurate as to the extent of my advice in her initial election,” Gibson said.
He said since 2005, he has paid no attention to Liberian politics, and that he has not been to Liberia since 2009.
The ruling Unity Party National Chairman Varney Sherman told VOA Monday that Gibson might have returned to Liberia early 2011 or late 2010 during which time he offered his services, but Sherman said President Sirleaf rejected the offer.
Gibson said he was never in Liberia during 2010 or 2011.
“I understand from your report that Mr. Sherman said that I came there in 2011 or 2010 which is absolutely not true. I was not in Liberia 2010, 2011; I conducted no analysis; I sent no report. And so, obviously they got the wrong Larry,” Gibson said.
FrontPage Africa quoted part of the purported pre-election poll analysis this way: “We have to ensure that we get Prince Johnson, Dew Mayson and others on UP [Unity Party] side during the second round. We’ve crunched the numbers for the Liberty Party [of Charles Brumskine] and CDC [of George Weah]; they looked strong in first and second. If UP can meet the ‘Most Likely Case,’ we could be in second round. But risk everything if we are in the worst case scenario, as Liberty and CDC could also trump UP and UP will not make it to second round. This election will be a ‘tall order’ and we should not take any chances. We have to keep our connections at NEC [National Election Commission]."
While Gibson and the ruling Unity Party deny the existence of any pre-election analysis and projections, observers note that some of the parties mentioned above like Prince Johnson’s National Union for Democratic Progress Party and Dew Mayson’s National Democratic Coalition are already said to be having problems within their ranks.