By Festus Poquie
Ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and the main opposition Unity Party will go head to head again in November for voters to decide which of the two is fit to lead Liberia.
Incumbent President George Weah and his main rival Joseph Boakai are courting other competitors in the Oct. 10 elections who are not making it to the second round of voting for support.
Weah is heading into the runoff with a slimmer advantage in need of a better strategy and consolidate force to retain the office of President.
The country is facing its tightest presidential contest for the first time in nearly two decades and the masterstroke lies with the candidate who win the hearts of candidates who lost in the first round.
Over 200,000 votes are at stick here. Eighteen of the 20 candidates who underperformed during the first round of balloting share a combined votes of 229,754 or 12.095 of the 1.9 million ballot cast on voting day.
While individually they did not exceed 1% of the vote, their support base is an attractive fortune to fish.
The best losers in the presidential race are: Edward Appleton of the Grass root Development Movement, who for his first showing in the presidential polls, came third with 40,262 or 2.20% votes.
Sitting in the 4th position is former Finance Minister Lusinee Kamara of the All Liberian Coalition Party, obtaining 35,984 or 1.9% of the tally.
At Number 5 is former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings who slumped to 29,612 or 1.4% votes from the 112,062 or 7.2% he won in 2017.
This represents about 73.5% decline. The Alternative National Congress leader did not endorse either of the candidates in the 2017 runoff, which Weah eventually won.
Siting at Number 6 is another first-time candidate – the rights lawyer Tiawon Saye Gongloe who received 26,391 or 1.45 votes.
Weah, 57, is seeking another term after a chaotic first six years in which a spike in food and fuel prices sparked an economic crisis and spawned violent protests in December. Boakai, 78, has used widespread anti-Weah sentiment to build support.
Liberia’s economy, which has large gold and iron-ore reserves, is struggling to recover from two civil wars that ended two decades ago, and its worst ever outbreak of the Ebola virus that peaked in 2014.
Per-capita income remains about a third of the level it was before the civil wars, and only about 7% of roads are paved.
The Liberian dollar is the fifth-worst performing African currency tracked by Bloomberg against the greenback this year — depreciating 18%.
To address those challenges, the outgoing administration has pledged to create an enabling environment for business, cut debt, curb the currency’s weakness and use fiscal and monetary policy to drive inflation back to below 10% — Weah secures a second term.
Boakai has campaigned on turning around the economy by increasing farm output and building roads. He has promised a government of inclusion.