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  • Documents on Democracy


In the December 26 runoff, opposition candidate and former professional soccer player George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change was elected president with 61.5 percent of the vote, defeating Vice-President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party, who won 38.5 percent. The second-round vote followed the Supreme Court’s dismissal of a petition charging electoral fraud that third-place candidate Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party had lodged. On January 22, Weah took the oath of office at a ceremony in Monrovia, marking the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since 1944. Excerpts from Weah’s address appear below:

Today, we Liberians have reached an important milestone in the never-ending journey for freedom, justice, and democracy; a search that has remained central to our history as a nation.

Many of those who founded this country left the pain and shame of slavery to establish a society where all would be free and equal. But that vision of freedom, equality, and democracy has not yet been fully realized.

That human longing for true and lasting freedom has revealed itself in many ways since Liberia’s founding. Sometimes the drive has been divisive and confrontational; and too often violent, bloody, and deadly, as it was in the fourteen years of civil conflict, when the absence of equality and unity led us down the path of destroying our own country.

Notwithstanding the harshness and immeasurable cost of the lesson, we have learned that equality and freedom are never just a final destination that a people or a nation reaches. These are fundamental human rights that our people deserve and that must be held up and measured against our actions, our policies, our laws, and our purpose as those elected to serve the people. . . .

This Inaugural Ceremony signals more than a peaceful transition from one democratic administration to another. It is also a transition [End Page 184] from one generation of Liberian leadership to a new generation. It is indeed a confirmation that democracy exists in Liberia, and that it is here to stay.

We have arrived at this transition neither by violence, nor by force of arms. Not a single life was lost in the process. Blood should never be the price tag for democracy. Rather, this transition was achieved by the free and democratic will of the Liberian people, guaranteed by the rule of law.

This Inaugural gathering also celebrates an important precedent: that we Liberians can, and will, rely on established institutions and the rule of law to resolve our political disagreements. This demonstrates the maturity of our institutions and that we as a people have learned valuable lessons from our brutal history. . . .

We should all strive to put aside our differences and join hands in the task of nation building. We must learn how to celebrate our diversity without drawing lines of division in our new Liberia. We belong to Liberia first before we belong to our inherited tribes. . . . We must not allow political loyalties to prevent us from collaborating in the national interest. We must respect each other and act as neighbors, regardless of religious, social, and economic differences. . . . United, we are certain to succeed as a nation. Divided, we are certain to fail.


Starting in December 2017, antigovernment demonstrations fanned across Iran in the greatest show of public opposition since the 2009 postelection protests. On February 12, one day after the thirty-ninth anniversary of the Islamic revolution, fifteen activists and intellectuals within Iran and from the Iranian diaspora released an open letter calling for a referendum on Iran’s theocratic government. Prominent signatories include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, human-rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and imprisoned human-rights activist Narges Mohammadi. (For more on Iran, see the review essay by Ladan Boroumand on pp. 173–77 above.) The full letter appears below:

Four decades have passed since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, a government whose obsession with Islamization has left little room for republican ideals. In these four decades, not only has our people’s suffering gone unabated, but the establishment of a dual life, in which demanding pious pretense bears little relation to...