16 presidential candidates are running for the executive post. But the two main contenders are Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and William Tubman (both Harvard graduates). (eh, couldn’t resist plugging that in). Senatorial and legislative seats are also up for grabs in this election.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Nobel Peace Prize last week was not without controversy. It was received warmly by some (Nancy Birdsall of CGD), skeptically by others (Chris Blattman on his blog) – but almost everyone (including Mwangi Kimenyi for Brookings) agreed to deplore the poor timing of the prize: Ms Sirleaf is an international icon, but faces many challenges at home.
As research has shown, the single most important determinant of solid democracies is not an election or two, but a peaceful transfer of power from one party to another.
On the other hand, with the heavy involvement of UNMIL troops on the ground, and the hands-on international support that the National Elections Commission has been receiving in preparation for the big day, this election is also a test for the international community’s efforts in post-conflict state building.
The world is watching, and hoping that Liberia has indeed permanently moved to the peaceful, democratic camp.