Liberian general election, 1985
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General elections were held in Liberia on 15 October 1985. These were the first elections since the 12 April 1980 military coup that brought Samuel Doe to power. After the military coup of 1980, it was the first elections to be held. During 1984, a new draft Constitutional referendum was approved, which allowed a 58 member civilian and military combined Interim National Assembly, headed by President Samuel Doe. The ban on political parties were lifted and four parties, namely, the President's National Democratic Party of Liberia, Liberian Action Party, Unity Party and Liberia Unification Party were in fray.
The polls were marred by allegations of widespread fraud and rigging. Official results showed that Samuel Doe won the presidential election with 50.9% of the vote, just enough to avoid a runoff. His National Democratic Party of Liberia won large majorities in both houses of the Legislature. Many independent observers believed that the Liberian Action Party's Jackson Doe, who officially finished second, was the actual winner. It was later revealed that Samuel Doe had the ballots counted in a secret location by his handpicked staff. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions, ultimately leading to the start of the First Liberian Civil War in 1989 and Doe's overthrow and murder in 1990.
In the United States, there was a movement to resettle free-born blacks and freed slaves who faced legislated limits, in Africa and predominantly in Liberia, believing blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the U.S. The American Colonization Society was founded in 1816 in Washington, DC for this purpose, by a group of prominent politicians and slaveholders. During the mid 19th century, there were continuous clashes between Liberian government and British merchants from Sierra Leone. The merchants were of the argument that the country had no rights to impose taxes. The elites in the colony wanted to declare sovereignty to overcome the issue, resulting in the declaration. During the 1846 referendum, there was a voting on declaration of independence to the nation. On 26 July 1847, the nation declared itself independent based on the popular voting and thus became the first democratic country in Africa. The country was spotted with frequent military coups and political disturbances.
The Legislature of Liberia was modeled based on the Legislature of United States. It is bicameral in nature with a Senate and the House of Representatives. There are 13 counties in the country and based on the population, each county is defined to have at least two members, while the total number of members to the house including the Speaker being 64. Each member represents an electoral district and elected to a six year term based on popular vote. There were 26 senators, two each for the 13 counties and they serve a nine year term (30 senators, 15 counties and nine years from 2011). Senators are also elected based on plurality of votes. The Vice-President is the head of the Senate and he also acts as President in his absence.
To be eligible as a voter, one had to possess 18 years of age and registered on electoral rolls. Persons who are of foreign origin, insane and convicted in crime were not eligible. The eligibility criteria to be candidate of a political party in the House of Representatives was residence in the country for one year before the elections, a tax payer and should be 25 years of age. The eligibility criteria to be candidate of a political party in the Senate was residence in the country for one year continuously before the elections, tax payer and should be 30 years of age.
True Whig Party, founded in 1869, was one of the oldest political parties in the world and the oldest in Africa. The party was in power from 1877. The Party had a majority of Americo-Liberians, who descended from the United States and formed less than one per cent of the total population of Liberia as per the census of 1962. President William Tubman ruled from 1947 until his death in 1971 and William Tolbert continued after it and won the 1975 elections. According to historians, Tolbert centralized the power and the reform movements failed to bring a solution to tribalism, economic backwardness and democracy. In the name of reforms, the salary of civil servants and government officials were terminated for a year. Tolbert also continued to suppress the opposition, leading to a coup. Master Sergeant, lead a group of conspirators and effected the coup on 12 April 1980. According to his accounts, the group wanted to arrest Tolbert and when he resisted, he was shot dead. A counter insurgent operation on 16 April was crushed effectively and Doe was in full control of the government. Doe's military People Redemption Council (PRC) invoked martial law and took control of all legislative and executive powers. There were lot of executions, rampant corruption, increasing rate of employment and decreasing health conditions. PRC announced in the UN General council that elections would be possibly held by 1983. Doe also built his image internationally by having border issues fixed with neighbouring countries and also promised a fair trial to the family of Tolbert.
After the military coup of 1980, it was the first elections to be held. During 1984, a new draft Constitutional referendum was approved, which allowed a 58 member civilian and military combined Interim National Assembly, headed by President Samuel Doe. The ban on political parties were lifted and four parties, namely, the President's National Democratic Party of Liberia, Liberian Action Party, Unity Party and Liberia Unification Party were in fray. The polling was largely peacefuly, but were marred by allegations of widespread fraud and rigging. Many independent observers believed that the Liberian Action Party's Jackson Doe, who officially finished second, was the actual winner. It was later revealed that Samuel Doe had the ballots counted in a secret location by his handpicked staff. Though there were no official mission from the United States to validate the fair conduct of the elections, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chester A. Crocker acknowledged that there were widespread irregularities, but pointed out that the narrow margin of victory showed good amount of fair polling and the extended hours of voting proved effective in increasing the voter turnaround. He also pointed out that radio stations and newspapers provided fair coverage to all the four parties that competed. The election results were announced on 29 October, with NDPL leading both in the Presidential, Assembly and Senate. Doe was sworn-in as the President on 6 January and a civilian cabinet on 15 January. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption, and ethnic tensions, ultimately leading to the start of the First Liberian Civil War in 1989 and Doe's overthrow and murder in 1990.
|Summary of the 15 October 1985 Liberian presidential election resultsedit||Votes||%|
|Samuel Doe, National Democratic Party of Liberia||264,362||50.93|
|Jackson Doe, Liberian Action Party||137,270||26.45|
|Gabriel Kpolleh, Liberia Unification Party||59,965||11.55|
|Edward Kesselly, Unity Party||57,443||11.07|
|Source: African Elections Database|
|Party||Votes||%||House seats||Senate seats|
|National Democratic Party of Liberia||264,364||50.9||51||22|
|Liberian Action Party||137,270||26.5||8||2|
|Liberia Unification Party||57,273||11.0||3||1|
|Source: Nohlen et al.|
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- Maggie Montesinos Sale (1997). The Slumbering Volcano: American Slave Ship Revolts and the Production of Rebellious Masculinity, Duke University Press, 1997, p. 264. ISBN 0-8223-1992-6
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- "Election results of Liberia, 1985" (PDF). Interparliamentary Union for Democracy for everyone. 1985. pp. 1–4. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
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- "Senate Election results of Liberia, 1985" (PDF). Interparliamentary Union for Democracy for everyone. 1985. Retrieved 22 October 2016.