By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper
Liberia-October 16, 2023:In a significant step forward for gender representation at the Legislature, two dedicated female representatives have defied the odds to secure their re-election.
Representative Moima Briggs Mensah, representing District #6 in Bong County, and Representative Julie Fatorma Wiah, representing District #2 in Lofa County, have both made history by becoming the first female lawmakers to be re-elected.
These trailblazing representatives were officially announced as the winners of their respective districts by the National Election Commission on Monday, October 16, following the October 10, 2023 presidential and legislative elections. The NEC is still tallying other counties’ results where women also contested as candidates.
Hon. Moima Briggs Mensah sought re-election as an independent candidate and secured 9,977 votes out of a total of 23,192, constituting 43.03% of the vote share. On the other hand, Representative Julie Fatorma Wiah, who is a member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, received 5,394 votes out of the total 18,920 votes, amounting to 28.51% of the vote share.
The re-election of Representatives Briggs and Wiah has been met with enthusiasm and relief among women across the country, who hope that their voices will continue to be heard in the Liberian parliament.
Statistics comparing the 2017 and 2023 elections highlight the progress made, with Representative Briggs seeing her vote count rise from 6,210 to 9,997 votes, while Representative Wiah experienced a decrease in votes, dropping from 10,168 to 5,394.
The broader context reveals that women in Liberia still face substantial obstacles in securing elected positions. Out of 885 representative candidates who competed in the October 10 elections, only two women have emerged victorious thus far. Among the 100 senatorial candidates, a mere seven are women, with none declared winner at this point.
Other women who were seeking re-election including Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis of District 4, Montserrado County, Finda Gborie Lassanah, of District 1 Bomi County, Mariamu Fofana District 4, Lofa County among others have conceded deafest prior to NEC official results in their respective counties. Some women candidates including Ellen Attoh-Wreh of Margibi District (re-election), Prescilla Cooper electoral district 5 Montserrado and Rugie Barry of District 1 Montserrado, Dabah Varpilah of CapeMount have all self-declared ahead of NEC. If the official announcement of NEC confirms their declaration, it means, the number of women in the house may increase but more women seeking re-election may not be re-elected.
This limited representation falls short of the goals set out in Farmington’s Declaration. In May 2023, this declaration was signed between the National Election Commission and political parties, aiming to ensure that 30% of women could contest on political party tickets in the October 10 Presidential and Legislative elections.
Prior to the Farmington Declaration, the Liberian legislature had endorsed a mandatory 30% gender quota for women’s participation in elections, though it was not formally enacted into law, based on a veto of the bill by Pres. George Manneh Weah.
Out of the 1,025 candidates participating in the October 10 elections, only 159 (15%) were women, marking an increase compared to the 2017 elections.
Preliminary findings from the European Union Election Observation Mission in Liberia highlight that female candidates aspiring to hold public office often struggle to finance their campaign activities, as they contend with substantial fees imposed by election stakeholders.
In the midst of these developments, the opposition Unity Party’s presidential candidate, Amb. Joseph Boakai, has taken the lead in the presidential race, with an 885-vote margin separating the UP from the ruling CDC.
According to the National Election Commission’s preliminary results released on Monday, October 16, Unity Party’s Joseph Boakai secured 748,463 votes out of the total 1,712,821 votes, representing 43.70% of the vote share. Incumbent George Weah, meanwhile, garnered 747,578 votes out of the total votes, amounting to 43.65% of the vote share.
As of now, the National Election Commission has disclosed preliminary results from 5,467 polling places out of a total of 5,890 polling stations nationwide, constituting 92.8% of the count.