Tubman holds sword over Liberia polls

2011-11-04 17:50
Monrovia - A Harvard-trained lawyer and seasoned diplomat, Winston Tubman is keeping Liberia guessing to the last as he threatens to boycott a key election in which he hopes to unseat President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The nephew of William Tubman, Liberia's longest serving president, is an energetic 70-year-old who constructed a careful game plan to oust the incumbent leader and, faced with losing, has shown he is not afraid to play hardball.

Despite being confident of a strong victory, pulling massive crowds before the October 11 vote, Tubman, representing the Congress for Democratic Change, scored 32.7% to Sirleaf's 44%, and went on to claim the process was flawed.

He gave the elections commission a list of demands, including that its head James Fromayan step down - which he did - but just four days before the poll says he is still unhappy and is not committed to taking part.

"The CDC has decided not to take part in the election and we are maintaining our position until some mechanisms are put in place to make sure the process is transparent. These mechanisms have not been put in place," Tubman told AFP on Friday.

The choice of the soft-spoken Tubman, a lover of reading and classical music who speaks with an American accent, to lead the presidential race for the main opposition CDC came as a surprise.

Many expected the party to once again field the wildly popular former footballer of the year, also voted African player of the century, George Weah, who won a first round of voting in 2005 against Sirleaf, but lost in the run-off.

Impressive education

Weah was seen as lacking experience and a formal education.

This time round, by naming Tubman flagbearer, with his impressive education and background, and Weah as the crowd-pleasing running mate, the CDC believed it had on its hands an unbeatable team.

"What the formula that we are now going for does, it keeps him [Weah] involved with the huge popularity that he has and brings the attraction of the young people but it also gives comfort to those who are not happy about the fact that they are now going to be led by someone who they feel isn't qualified," Tubman said in an interview with AFP in October.

"To have me in the position of leadership is a feeling that yes, this man has experience - he's worked in the UN, he's had governmental experience, if he's in charge, then it will be well run."

Born in 1941 in Pleebo, Maryland County, Winston Tubman is a descendant of the freed American slaves who founded Liberia in 1847.

His uncle William Tubman is seen as the father of modern Liberia, overseeing an economic boom during his term from 1944 until his death in 1971.

The younger Tubman has promised "true reconciliation", something that the incumbent Sirleaf is seen to have neglected in the years following Liberia's bloody civil wars, which ended in 2003.

Several government positions

Tubman holds a Harvard degree in law as well as degrees from the London School of Economics and Cambridge University.

He was Liberia's representative to the United Nations between 1979 and 1981, and was ambassador to Cuba and Mexico and has held several government positions, serving as justice minister under former Liberian president Samuel Doe between 1982 and 1983.

From 2002 to 2005, he served as the United Nations Secretary General’s representative and head of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia.

In the 2005 elections, Tubman was a presidential candidate for Doe's former party, the National Democratic Party of Liberia, and came in fourth with 9.2% of votes.

He is married with four children and three grandchildren.

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