The president and all members of the legislature were formerly members of the True Whig Party, which was organized in 1860 and held power continuously from 1878 to 1980. The Progressive People's Party (PPP), formed in 1979, claimed to represent the interests of Liberia's indigenous peoples, in contrast to the Americo-Liberian stance of the True Whigs.
In March 1980, several PPP members were arrested, a move that may have triggered the April coup. Although all political activity was banned, many True Whig members retained their government posts.
The National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), established by former president Samuel K. Doe, was victorious in the 1985 elections. The newly formed Unity Party, Liberian Action Party, and Liberian Unification Party were allowed to take part in these elections. The United People's Party (UPP), probably the largest opposition grouping, was founded by Gabriel Baccus Matthews, formerly head of the PPP. The UPP was not allowed to field candidates in 1985 but was legalized in 1986.
In May 2000, the opposition led by Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, formed a loose coalition of eleven entities called the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), which aimed to present a common candidate in 2003. In mid-2001, several key opposition leaders including Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf met in Abuja, Nigeria to discuss political strategies. The opposition made a number of demands, which it advanced as pre-conditions before going to elections. Among these were the restructuring the armed forces as stipulated by the Abuja Accords, holding elections for chiefs and mayors, conducting a census, dissolving NPP party cells in the civil service, stopping 'illegal' funding of the NPP, guaranteeing opposition parties equal air time and reconstituting the elections commission (ECOM). Opposition political activity upcountry has been virtually non-existant because of extreme insecurity.
In June 2003, Charles Taylor's NPP, held 49 of 64 House seats, and 21 of 26 Senate seats. The Unity Party held 7 House seats and 3 Senate seats. The All Liberia Coalition Party held 3 House seats and 2 Senate seats. Three other parties held the 5 remaining House seats among themselves.