For the first time, the Liberian labor movement was an organized and active participant in the country’s presidential election, engaging in get-out-the-vote efforts and monitoring polling sites.
Asserting their right to participate in the democratic process, 50 people associated with Liberia’s labor federation, the Liberia Labor Congress (LLC), helped monitor 10 precincts and more than 40 polling places in and around Monrovia, the capital, and on a rubber plantation in Harbel last week, as Liberians went to the polls. Election monitors, including from locals affiliated with the United Steelworkers and the United Steelworkers Canada (USW) reported that the process was fair, if disorganized in places, and that Liberia’s unions ran a successful get-out-the vote campaign targeting workers.
This year the LLC and its affiliated unions engaged in voter registration drives, focusing on places where there is a high concentration of union members, such as mining areas in Nimba County, the port city of Buchanan and Harbel, Marigbi County, location of a major rubber plantation.
Unions must participate in the democratic process said election monitor Jackie Doe, women’s chair-elect of the LLC. We must promote good leadership, she said, “for the well-being of the workers of Liberia.”
On the rubber plantation, worker election teams were well-organized, according to Mike Zielinski, USW Local 3657, facilitating a smoother voting process than seen in other parts of the country. Union families turned out in large numbers, he said, sending a message that elected officials must represent working people.
On election day, union observers encouraged voters frustrated with long lines at some polling stations to stay in line and reminded officials that everyone in line at 6 p.m., when the polls closed, was still entitled to vote, per the country’s election guidelines.
The election saw more than 2.1 million voters choosing among 20 candidates vying to succeed Africa’s first female president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has overseen 12 years of peace in a country that was previously ravaged by two civil wars.
Election authorities announced on October 17 that, because no one candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote, a presidential runoff is scheduled for November 7. Former international soccer superstar George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai will face off in the second round.