November 28, 2005
1st woman president elected
Deborah Hakes is an intern in the Carter Center
Public Information Office.
On Nov. 8, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first female elected
president in an African nation when she won a runoff vote to become
president of Liberia; The Carter Center and the National Democratic
Institute (NDI) sent joint observer teams to monitor both the country’s
runoff and its Oct. 11 general elections.
The October election saw 22 candidates vie for the
presidency, but none obtained the simple majority needed to win;
an economist, and former
soccer star George Weah went head to head in the runoff. The Carter Center and
NDI observer teams found that both elections met international standards and
credibly reflected the will of the Liberian people.
The Carter Center has worked to foster peace, human
rights and democracy in Liberia since 1991. The 2005 presidential
and legislative elections
followed a two-year
transition period after the adoption of a comprehensive peace agreement in 2003,
ending 14 years of civil war. The center observed the entire election process,
with field staff and long-term observers posted in the country since July.
“This election was absolutely critical for Liberia as well as the entire
West African subregion because of the inter-linkages between the societies—and
some of the conflicts— in the region,” said David Carroll, director
of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program. “The success of these elections
means that Liberia has its best opportunity in 25 years to try to set a new course
for peace and democratic development.
“The main challenges for the future,” he continued, “are to
take steps to end insecurity and implement a program for transparent governance
and economic development.”
Liberians turned out in large numbers to vote in both
rounds of the election. About 75 percent voted in the general elections,
and nearly 61 percent voted
in the runoff less than a month later. In addition to the election observation
missions, the center helped fund Liberian grassroots organizations that
conducted voter and civic education in communities, schools and
displaced persons camps.