n Journal of African Elections - Reviving a failed State : the 2005 general elections in Liberia

Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



The paper reviews the 2005 general election in Liberia, analysing its background, context, processes, dynamics, contradictions and outcomes. The election was generally acclaimed as the most competitive, free, fair, transparent, and credible in the political history of the country and constitutes a significant milestone in the transition from war to peace and the return to political normalcy and democratic rule. However, it evokes a curious paradox: how did a country just emerging from the ashes of a brutal war and unimaginable human destruction, aptly described as the quintessence of a failed state, manage to organise a credible and successful election? Postconflict countries are usually characterised by deep social and political divisions, low political consensus and immense organisational and logistical challenges in the conduct of elections. Three factors, both domestic and international, coalesced to facilitate the emergence of consociational electoral politics and the conduct of successful elections in 2005 in Liberia. These were: the fact that the Liberian people, exhausted by war and violence, were determined to try the electoral option in addressing the question of political power; the preparedness of the electoral commission, in spite of huge operational problems, to conduct free and fair elections; and the tremendous support for and commitment of the international community, especially the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the European Union to the electoral process in Liberia. The successful election marked a process of political renewal and democratic rebirth for a beleaguered, war-ravaged nation.

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