Politics of Liberia

The Politics of Liberia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic modeled on the government of the United States, whereby the President is the head of state and head of government; unlike the United States, however, Liberia is a unitary state as opposed to a federation and has a pluriform multi-party system rather than the two-party system that characterizes US politics. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the legislature.

Liberia is still in transition from dictatorship and civil war to democracy. Liberia's government is based on the American model of a republic with three equal branches of government, though in reality, the President of Liberia has usually been the dominant force in Liberian politics. Following the dissolution of the Republican Party in 1876, the True Whig Party dominated the Liberian government until the 1980 coup, eventually creating what was effectively a stable, one-party state, with little politics in the usual sense. The longest-serving president in Liberian history was William Tubman, serving from 1944 until his death in 1971. The shortest term was held by James Skivring Smith, who was interim president for all of two months in 1871. However, the political process from Liberia's founding in 1847, despite widespread corruption, was very stable until the end of the First Republic in 1980.

This situation changed abruptly in 1980, with the revolt against the Americo-Liberians and their True Whig Party. Currently,[when?] no party has majority control of the legislature.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Liberia a "hybrid regime" in 2022.

Political developments since 1980

The Executive Mansion has been the home of Liberian Presidents since its construction in 1964. It has not been used since a fire in 2006.

Between 1980 and 2006, Liberia was governed by a series of military and transitional governments. The president of the last of these, Charles Taylor, was forced to step down in 2003, and the United Nations installed a transitional government. Elections to select a government to replace the transitional government took place in October and November 2005. (see 2005 Liberian general election).

In the 1980s, Samuel K. Doe's government increasingly adopted an ethnic outlook as members of his Krahn ethnic group soon dominated political and military life in Liberia. This caused a heightened level of ethnic tension leading to frequent hostilities between the politically and militarily dominant Krahns and other ethnic groups in the country.

Political parties remained banned until 1984. Elections were held on 15 October 1985 in which Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) was declared the winner. The elections were characterized by widespread fraud and rigging. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions. The standard of living, which had been rising in the 1970s, declined drastically.

On 12 November 1985, former Army Commanding General Thomas Quiwonkpa invaded Liberia by way of neighboring Sierra Leone and almost succeeded in toppling the government of Samuel Doe. Members of the Krahn-dominated Armed Forces of Liberia repelled Quiwonkpa's attack and executed him in Monrovia.

On 24 December 1989, a small band of rebels led by Doe's former procurement chief, Charles Taylor invaded Liberia from Ivory Coast. Taylor and his National Patriotic Front rebels rapidly gained the support of Liberians because of the repressive nature of Samuel Doe and his government. Barely six months after the rebels first attacked, they had reached the outskirts of Monrovia.

The First and Second Liberian Civil War, which was one of Africa's bloodiest, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened and succeeded in preventing Charles Taylor from capturing Monrovia. Prince Johnson who had been a member of Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) but broke away because of policy differences, formed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson's forces captured and killed Doe on 9 September 1990.

An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was formed in Gambia under the auspices of ECOWAS in October 1990 and Dr. Amos Sawyer became President. Taylor refused to work with the interim government and continued war.

By 1992, several warring factions had emerged in the Liberian civil war, all of which were absorbed in the new transitional government. After several peace accords and declining military power, Taylor finally agreed to the formation of a five-man transitional government.

After considerable progress in negotiations conducted by the United States, United Nations, Organization of African Unity, and the Economic Community of West African States, disarmament and demobilization of warring factions were hastily carried out and special elections were held on 19 July 1997 with Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerging victorious. Taylor won the election by a large majority, primarily because Liberians feared a return to war had Taylor lost.

Unrest continued, and by 2003, two rebel groups were challenging Taylor's control of the country. In August 2003, Taylor resigned and fled the country and vice-president Moses Blah became acting president. On 18 August 2003, the warring parties signed the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement which marked the political end of the conflict.

The international community again intervened and helped set up a transitional government (National Transitional Government of Liberia) which was led by Gyude Bryant until the Liberian general election of 2005.

For more than a year, over 9,000 census-takers combed the densely forested nation mapping every structure. For three days starting 21 March 2008, they revisited each dwelling and counted the inhabitants.[1]

Executive branch

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President George Weah Congress for Democratic Change 22 January 2018
Vice President Jewel Taylor Congress for Democratic Change 22 January 2018

The president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term (renewable). The cabinet is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Legislative branch

Legislature of Liberia.

Liberia has a bicameral Legislature that consists of the Senate (30 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve nine-year terms) and the House of Representatives (73 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms)

Political parties and elections

Presidential elections

CandidateRunning matePartyFirst roundSecond round
George WeahJewel TaylorCoalition for Democratic Change596,03738.37732,18561.54
Joseph BoakaiEmmanuel James NuquayUnity Party446,71628.76457,57938.46
Charles BrumskineHarrison S. Karnwea Sr.Liberty Party149,4959.62
Prince JohnsonAudrian R. Smith-ForbesMovement for Democracy and Reconstruction127,6668.22
Alexander B. Cummings Jr.Jeremiah SuluntehAlternative National Congress112,0677.21
Benoni UreyAlexander Nyonkon DuopuAll Liberian Party24,2461.56
Joseph Mills JonesSamuel B. Reeves Jr.Movement for Economic Empowerment12,8540.83
MacDella CooperWilliam R. SlocumLiberia Restoration Party11,6450.75
Henry Boimah FahnbullehMarcus S.G. DahnLiberian People's Party11,5600.74
Oscar CooperWonderr Koryenen FreemanIndependent10,3810.67
MacDonald A. WentoJohn N. BleahUnited People's Party8,9680.58
Simeon C. M. FreemanWilliam T. KnowldenMovement for Progressive Change6,6820.43
Isaac Gbombadee WilesRichmond D. K. YarkpahDemocratic Justice Party6,3790.41
Aloysius William KpadehJohn S. PartorIndependent5,9220.38
Kennedy Gbleyah SandyVictoria Morris TwehLiberia Transformation Party5,3430.34
George Sluwer Dweh Sr.Annie Y. TuazamaRedemption Democratic Congress4,9350.32
William Wiah TuiderDave L. DixonNew Liberia Party4,9200.32
Jeremiah Z. WhapoeIsaac D. G. FlowersVision for Liberia Transformation3,9460.25
Yarkpajuwur N. MatorRuth L. KollieIndependent1,9400.12
Wendell J. E. McIntoshManjerngie Cecelia NdebeChange Democratic Action1,6460.11
Valid votes1,553,34894.611,189,76497.67
Invalid/blank votes88,5745.3928,3602.33
Total votes1,641,922100.001,218,124100.00
Registered voters/turnout2,183,62975.192,183,62955.78
Source: NEC NEC

House of Representatives elections

Coalition for Democratic Change (CDCNPPLPDP)239,75415.5721+7
Unity Party220,50814.3220−4
Liberty Party131,9808.573−4
Alternative National Congress93,4756.070New
People's Unification Party90,4215.875New
All Liberian Party77,0135.003New
Movement for Economic Empowerment59,2683.851New
Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction56,7343.692New
Coalition for Liberia's Progress50,7323.300New
Liberia Transformation Party49,6213.2210
United People's Party47,3573.081New
Victory for Change Party28,3851.841+1
Liberian People's Party24,2871.581New
Vision for Liberia Transformation21,3241.390New
Grassroot Democratic Party of Liberia20,5881.3400
Liberia National Union20,2271.311+1
Movement for Progressive Change19,9801.300−2
True Whig Party14,7230.960New
Liberia Restoration Party11,6900.760New
Democratic Justice Party7,4150.480New
Change Democratic Action7,1660.470New
Redemption Democratic Congress5,7310.370New
Liberians for Prosperity6280.040New
New Liberia Party4940.030New
Valid votes1,539,50294.86
Invalid/blank votes83,4275.14
Total votes1,622,929100.00
Registered voters/turnout2,183,62974.32
Source: NEC, NEC, Carter Center

Senate elections

Congress for Democratic Change135,89729.782
Liberty Party52,35111.472
Unity Party47,12310.334
National Patriotic Party27,6026.051
People's Unification Party22,5284.941
Alternative National Congress18,9174.151
Alliance for Peace and Democracy18,4104.030
National Democratic Coalition5,7261.251
Union of Liberian Democrats4,0920.900
Liberia Transformation Party3,6800.810
Grassroot Democratic Party of Liberia3,1540.690
Movement for Progressive Change3,0380.670
Liberia National Union1,7790.390
Victory for Change Party1,2660.280
Valid votes456,27095.07
Invalid/blank votes23,6664.93
Total votes479,936100.00
Registered voters/turnout1,903,22925.22
Source: NEC, NEC

Judicial branch

There is a Supreme Court, criminal courts, and appeals court and magistrate courts in the counties. There also are traditional courts and lay courts in the counties. Trial by ordeal is practiced in various parts of Liberia.

Administrative divisions

The basic unit of local government is the town chief. There are clan chiefs, paramount chiefs, and district commissioners. The counties are governed by superintendents appointed by the President. There are fifteen counties in Liberia.

# County Capital Established Area (km2) Population
(2008 Census)
1 Bomi Tubmanburg 1984 1,932 84,119
2 Bong Gbarnga 1964 8,754 333,481
3 Gbarpolu Bopulu 2001 9,953 83,388
4 Grand Bassa Buchanan 1847 7,814 221,693
5 Grand Cape Mount Robertsport 1856 4,781 127,076
6 Grand Gedeh Zwedru 1964 10,855 125,258
7 Grand Kru Barclayville 1984 3,895 57,913
8 Lofa Voinjama 1964 9,982 276,863
9 Margibi Kakata 1985 2,691 209,923
10 Maryland Harper 1857 2,297 135,938
11 Montserrado Bensonville 1847 1,880 1,118,241
12 Nimba Sanniquellie 1964 11,551 462,026
13 Rivercess Rivercess 1985 5,564 71,509
14 River Gee Fish Town 2000 5,113 66,789
15 Sinoe Greenville 1847 9,764 102,391

International organization participation


See also

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