Under post-1946 TWP-rule, roughly what percentage of adult Liberians could effectively vote?

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The Politicus
Aug 08, 2021 10:23 PM 0 Answers
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I'm trying to understand (in a nutshell) how it came be that

The nation was virtually governed as a one-party state under the TWP, although opposition parties were never outlawed.

while at the same time the Liberian constitution, since 1847, was supposedly a fairly close copy of the US one.

The US system generally leads to a two-party system/alternance. So I ponder what ingredient made Liberia a "virtually one party state". (N.B. I know they had no term limits so e.g. Tubman was president for 27 years, followed by his former VP, Tolbert.) It appears that early on only the US-repatriates who founded Liberia had the right to vote:

According to the constitution, all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural,
inherent and unalienable rights. But ‘all men’ did not mean all men who
inhabited the area that the constitution laid claim to. On the contrary, the constitution made a strong delineation between an in-group constituted by the
repatriates and an out-group constituted by the indigenous groups. The members
of the so-called ‘native tribes’ were not eligible for election or voting.
boundary between ‘us’ and ‘them’ was therefore established and the foundation
laid for alienation between the different ethnic groups of Liberia. [...]

In 1870 the True Whig Party (TWP) was established and, for the next 110 years,
Liberia was de facto a one-party state. Under the rule of the TWP it was always a
small elite of repatriates, never more than 3%–5%, who dominated every aspect
of political and economic life for their own benefit.

But I'm not entirely sure what happened later on. It seems some changes were implemented in 1945, in which voting rights for the indigenous tribes members were given as long as hey paid the "hut tax". Apparently it was a form of extending voting but also limiting it to land owners. Another paper also notes briefly that

Indigenous Liberians, both men and women, were granted the right to vote in the 1940s [it turns out
it was 1946 for women], but property ownership requirements prevented the country from claiming true universal suffrage at this time.

It's not clear to me how much these reforms changed the voting landscape... So, are there some estimates what proportion of adult Liberians could effectively vote under the 1946-1980 system? Essentially, were in practice indigenous Liberians (from among whom S. Doe arose, and who overthrew the TWP in 1980 in a coup) still substantially disenfranchised, under the 1946-1980 system?

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  • August 8, 2021