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Women and the 2005 election in Liberia*

  • Jacqui Bauer (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 May 2009

In 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defeated George Weah to become President of Liberia and the first woman elected to head an African country. Women voters were widely credited with her victory. This paper quantifies this claim by analysing newspaper content during the election period to gauge civil society group activity. It finds that consistency in their activities may have allowed women's groups to surpass other civil society groups in impacting the election. Activity levels of women's groups remained stable between the election and run-off periods, unlike other major group types whose activity level dropped by between 37% and 70%. It concludes that the environment surrounding the 2005 election was conducive to participation by women because of their existing, latent power in many spheres; their long experience as peacebuilders; the decimation of conventional social and political structures; Liberian women's experience in leadership positions; the failure of multiple male-dominated efforts; and the presence of a well-qualified female candidate.

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Special thanks to Verlon Stone of the Liberian Collections Project at Indiana University for making available the materials used in this study, and for his comments. Thanks also to Amos Sawyer for his encouragement, review and advice; and to Xavier Basurto, Shelley-Jean Bradfield, Michael Cox, Thomas Evans and Maria Claudia Lopez Perez for their thoughtful input.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. Connell 1998. ‘Strategies for change: women and politics in Eritrea and South Africa’, Review of African Political Economy 25, 76: 189207.

S. Franceschet 2001. ‘Women in politics in post-transitional democracies’, International Feminist Journal of Politics 3, 2: 207–36.

D. Harris 1999. ‘From “warlord” to “democratic” president: how Charles Taylor won the 1997 Liberian elections’, Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 3: 431–55.

R. Inglehart & P. Norris . 2000. ‘The developmental theory of the gender gap: women's and men's voting behaviour in global perspective’, International Political Science Review 21, 4: 441–63.

V. M. Moghadam 2003. ‘Engendering citizenship, feminizing civil society: the case of the Middle East and North Africa’, Women & Politics 25, 1/2: 6387.

M. H. Moran & M. A. Pitcher . 2004. ‘The “basket case” and the “poster child”: explaining the end of civil conflicts in Liberia and Mozambique’, Third World Quarterly 25, 3: 501–19.

A. Sawyer 2008. ‘Emerging patterns in Liberia's post-conflict politics: observations from the 2005 elections’, African Affairs 107, 427: 177–99.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
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