[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Liberian poll: The main contenders
Liberia's 2005 presidential elections have attracted 22 candidates vying for the country's highest office. The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia takes a glimpse at the six candidates who opinion polls have indicated are the most likely winners.

GEORGE WEAH

George Weah, 39, is widely acclaimed as Africa's greatest ever footballer after being crowned World Player of the year in 1995.

However, as a politician he is a novice.

George Weah
The highest profile candidate has been attracting big crowds
Weah was born and raised in a Monrovia slum. He is of the Kru ethnic group and originally hails from south-eastern Grand Kru County, one of Liberia's most under-developed areas.

Weah's international football career saw him play for, amongst others, French Clubs AS Monaco, Paris Saint Germain and Olympique Marseille; the Italian side AC Milan, and English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City.

"Oppong", as the former Liberian captain is fondly called, has little formal education which, he says, is supported by an online Associate of Arts degree in Sports Administration.

Opponents have suggested he could easily be manipulated if elected.

While eying the presidency and waiting for Charles Taylor to step down, Weah resided in Ghana and New York where he still has assets.

His Jamaican wife and family reside abroad, but newspapers in Monrovia have recently reported her expression of support for her husband's bid.

Attempts by Weah's opponents to disenfranchise him in August by declaring him a French citizen were over-ruled by the elections commission when the commission said those making the claims did not have evidence to back their stand.

George Weah's party, the Congress for Democratic Change, is one of the newest in the Liberian political arena.

Weah says his critics and opponents "have failed the national test to lead the country" and it is time for him to try.

He says his dream is "to do for Liberia what others have failed to do for the country in the 158 years of its existence" and to provide basic social services.

He wants the presidential term reduced from six to four years.

ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 66, was Liberia's finance minister in the late 1970s. Her Unity Party came a distant second to Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Party in the 1997 election.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Her experience is contrasted with Weah's inexperience
Mrs Sirleaf served as Director for Africa at the United Nations Development Programme.

The "Iron Lady", as her supporters fondly call her, served as head of the Governance Reform Commission set up as part of the deal to end Liberia's civil war in 2003.

She resigned that post to contest the presidency, criticising the transitional government's inability to fight corruption.

Mrs Sirleaf's presidential bid is still haunted by remarks she made in a radio interview in the early days of Charles Taylor's rebellion.

She said that if Taylor demolished the presidency to get Samuel Doe out of power, they would all help to rebuild it.

During a public debate that brought 11 of the 22 candidates together at the Independence Pavilion in Monrovia, Mrs Sirleaf out-smarted a male presidential candidate who tried to use his selection of a female running mate to win favour from Liberian women.

"We don't want a woman second best; we want a woman best," Sirleaf said, to wild applause.

Mrs Sirleaf, a divorcee whose ex-husband died a few years ago, is the mother of four sons.

She wants to become president in order "to bring motherly sensitivity and emotion to the presidency" as a way of healing the wounds of war.

She says she is keen on declaring war against corruption.

WINSTON TUBMAN

Winston Tubman, in his mid-60s, served as Liberia's Justice Minister during the regime of soldier-turned politician Samuel Doe in the 1980s.

Winston Tubman holds up a football shirt (Copyright: www.supportersofwinstonatubman.org)
Winston Tubman is a career diplomat

He is still running on the ticket of Mr Doe's party. Mr Tubman is a nephew of Liberia's longest-serving President, William VS Tubman, who ruled for 27 years.

Winston Tubman resigned his post this year as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia to contest the presidency.

He believes in pluralistic democracy, but thinks "all these political parties are just too many for this small country".

The career diplomat wants to take his cue from the peace that existed during the regime of his uncle, and provide a sound leadership for Liberia.

Winston Tubman is a crowd man who judges his chances from the faces he sees around him.

His supporters think that in a country where home-based politicians are at each other's throats, someone like him is a compromise candidate to preside over the nation.

CHARLES BRUMSKINE

Charles Walker Brumskine, a 64-year-old who hails from southern Grand Bassa County, is an astute lawyer.

Charles Brumskine kicks off a football tournament in his honour (Copyright: www.charlesbrumskine.org)
Brumskine says his party believes in the rule of law

He was leader of the Upper House of Parliament during the regime of ex-president Charles Taylor.

But when he fell out of favour with Taylor in 1999, he went into exile in the United States.

Mr Brumskine returned home in 2003, describing Liberia under Taylor a as failed state and pariah nation.

He had planned to stand as a candidate against Charles Taylor in the election that was aborted by the stepping down of Taylor and the installation of a post-Taylor transitional government.

Charles Brumskine and his Liberty Party want to introduce the necessary reforms Liberia needs, and he is keen on seeing the extradition of Charles Taylor to face the Special Court in Sierra Leone.

Mr Brumskine says serving in the Taylor government does not make him a part of what has landed the former president in trouble with the international community.

He has a female running mate. "My government will believe in the rule of law," he says, and sees sending Taylor to face the court as a way of satisfying international protocol.

ROLAND MASSAQUOI

Roland Massaquoi, a trained agriculturist and development planner, is the standard of the National Patriotic Party, the ruling party during the regime of Taylor.

Roland Massaquoi
Roland Massaquoi is a man of the land

Mr Massaquoi has served as minister of agriculture and planning and economic affairs.

The northerner is credited for encouraging and convening conferences that aimed at ending continued conflict in Liberia when the government of Charles Taylor was at war with rebel groups.

Unlike Taylor who influenced decisions taken at the party's conventions, Mr Massaquoi allowed the communities to freely choose their parliamentary representatives during the NPP's primary.

He wants the empowerment of rural dwellers to be the hallmark of his administration, as a way of combating poverty.

"I want to give Liberia back to Liberians" is his motto, implying a vision of empowering citizens to take charge of the economy.

VARNEY SHERMAN

Varney Sherman, a corporate lawyer from western Grand Cape Mount County on the border with Sierra Leone, is credited with providing sound legal services for leading companies and prominent individuals.

Varney Sherman poster
Sherman believes Liberia needs younger men to lead the nation

Mr Sherman is from the Liberia Action Party, the party of Transitional Head of State Gyude Bryant.

When Mr Bryant assumed the responsibility in 2003, Mr Sherman was his legal adviser, but he has since relinquished the portfolio.

Mr Sherman sprang to the defence of four Channel 4 journalists who had been charged with espionage by the government of ex-president Charles Taylor in August 2000 when the journalists entered Liberia with a pre-written script the authorities were unhappy with.

Mr Sherman is from the Vai ethnic group.

He says people who have reached retirement age and those who supported directly or indirectly the just-ended war in Liberia should forget about the presidency and leave it for people like himself.

Mr Sherman's optimism and dream for the nation's highest seat is reflected on billboards on which ahead of the election, he and his running mate are proclaimed president and vice president of Liberia.

He says he wishes to end the culture of impunity in Liberia and take Liberia into the community of nations.






FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific