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Liberia’s Elections: How PYJ Denied Weah’s Win

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By Festus Poquie

Nearly 10 months after a nasty political devoice, controversial Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson appeared at the ballot box on Oct. 10 to execute a deadly revenge that has torpedoed President George Weah’s anticipated first round victory to secure a second term mandate.

Backing opposition leader Joseph Boakai in the presidential race, PYJ delivered vote-rich Nimba County to the Unity Party with an impressive 137,433 votes after 99.9% count from polling stations nationwide.

Weah won 50,269 votes in the region. Judging from the numbers as released by the National Elections Commission, had the President maintained his relationship with the Senator, he would have certainly crossed the 50% plus one vote target line to retain the Office of President of the Republic of Liberia.

With 1.9 million ballots tallied Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change obtained 803,674 or 43.84% votes.

Adding Johnson’s influenced 137,433 votes from Nimba would take the President’s tally to 941,107 votes leaving Boakai with 658,880 votes after deduction of the PYJ-votes. In this hypothetical scenario, the President would be crossing to a resounding victory.

But his seemingly goal bound strike deflected off PYJ, cleared away by Boakai, putting the march back into replay.

Since the end of the Liberian civil war in 2003 and the return of democracy, Prince Yormie Johnson, the notorious warlord of the 1990s has used his dominance in vote-rich Nimba County to cut political deals, playing a spoiler role to advantage a leading presidential candidate.

He did it in first round of polling this year with precision and accuracy.

In 2005 and 2011 Johnson helped former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf win the presidential elections.

In 2017 incumbent President George Weah was at the benefiting end, securing a landslide victory with the ex-rebel chief’s backing.

PYJ and the Coalition for Democratic Change enjoyed better relationship since 2017 until end 2022. The ruling party helped his MDR to win a vital Senate seat in 2020. That Senator Is Jeremiah Koung, now Boakai’s running mate.

In a noisy devoice, 71-year-old Johnson and his MDR parted company with the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change in January 2023, citing betrayal and withholding of funding to his county.

Johnson alleges President Weah has sidestepped terms and conditions of a certain political deal agreed with his Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction. In October the MDR will not back Weah for a second-term in office, he told worshippers at the Christ Chapel of Faith in Monrovia.

“Change this nation democratically through your votes,” he said.

“Don’t be intimidated or threatened by anyone. Liberia depends on you.”

President Weah replied the Nimba County Senator calling him a killer, blackmailer, beggar and crook.

“If you don’t want to work with us step aside,” he said.

“Anybody that wants to vote for us will vote for us. And anybody that is going to ask me for money because they want to declare their support to my party, I rather give the money to the people of Liberia…

“This Government is not going to be tied down or blackmailed by anybody.”

 

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