By: Josephus Moses Gray
This year’s political battle lines have been drawn as rivals for the nation’s highest office are preparing to battle all out across the country for votes. But which of political party that holds the key to victory to succeed President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?
It’s easy to forgive than to forget, but when it comes to campaigns for national office such as the presidency, we’ve really only seen one side of Liberian politicians; we have not yet experienced the realness of our politicians as the 2017 aspirants vying for the presidency and ready to fight for the people without one hand tied behind their backs.
We’ve only seen them speaking less tough on national issues without a robust action that show positive political sign of a clear-cut victory in this year’s General Elections especially the presidential poll.
But the question is: Will majority of the electorates be prepared to make sound decisions or will voters continue to trade the ever present chronic tradition of their ballots in exchanged for monetary gain coupled with other most essential materials including a ‘tea spoon full of raw rice to pathetically, but just for few minutes ease their immediate quest and livelihood.
Otherwise will Liberians use the October elections to punish the political corrupt and egocentric bureaucrats or do the opposite to make wrong choices again?
But majority of these political parties are, and remain fragile, weaken by either poor leadership or the government in order to keep regime dynasty. Nowadays political parties in the country often function as fly-by-night-venture upon only being active during election periods. Immediately after electoral exercises, these political institutions most often and in some cases, eventually disappeared in thin air while craving through reflection by operating from hand-bags and the back seats of some aging vehicles and unidentified offices.
It is an indisputable fast that Liberians are yet to see a captivating political character , one whose owns the political chemistry to out rightly win the 2017 presidential election, a character who can removed greater number of poverty-stricken messes from abject poverty to a new level of appreciative livelihood, one that will momentously improve the provisional of basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads across the country, safe drinking water for a majority of the population, reduce the massive unemployment and create jobs, ensure quality education and available and affordable health care among other necessities of human needs.
But can these essential necessities be visible in the absence of placing state authority in the hands of a leader-one who lack the political will to conclusively combat corruption and cannot commends greater respect from the population? History tells us that no matter how great a nation is, if the citizens of the nation and other nations began to lose faith in their leaders, that government or leadership could eventually fail as others around the world have in the past.
Fortunately, this election will be won by an influential presidency candidate who has the well-organized political chemistry in place across the country, one who came with the reservoir of ideas and the inspiration to play on the emotions of the exasperated voting population and also be able to make the election people centered oriented; one who will speak thought on issues affecting of bulks of the populace.
Some of these prime concerns include lack of quality education and improved health delivery system, growing poverty, destitution and hard cost of living, corruption, lack justice for the poor and rule of law for all, lack of decentralize development, economics viability and empowerment of the poor, security for all and reduce the high prices of basic commodities and merchandises.
Currently we have not yet experienced a greater likeability of any of these aspirants either the familiar old faces of the body politics of Liberia despite their declaration to contest the October’s General-Election. The question on the lips of political pundits is: Will the 2017 General Elections be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP?
With about three months to this year’s October 10th General Elections, there are major concerns on the lips of political pundits and electorates, but another question is Can any of these political aspirants win on the first ballot? Will it be an old face or a Johnny-just-come? Will the presidential race this time break away from the past by ending in the first round or like history, be compelled to engage the traditional second round or what’s referred to as run-up?
However, will it be another new comer from an unknown political background or will it be one from the students’ activism? Anyway, the presence of some Johnny-just-come in the process is expected to introduce new dynamism in the race for the 2017 political process considering their financial powers and influences to financially pull electorates in their directions.
Nevertheless, can the new comers- Cummings and Urey pull the votes and viewing both to pride themselves to be first among equals who would create as serious upset cut down the old faces like Boakai, Weah, Brumskine, prince Johnson and emerge as winner or will it be the king-maker Senator Prince Johnson this time around upsetting the rest? Spiraling, some predict the process will end-up into traditional run-off running, between CDC’s Weah on one hand and one of the following persons possibly UP’s Boakai, LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings or MOVEE’s Jones.; UP’s Boakai and CDC’s Weah are serious contenders that should not to be taken for granted.
Many are of the conviction that if the presidential election ended into a run-off between CDC and UP, the king-makers in the process would be Cummings, Jones, Urey, Brumskine and Senator Johnson. But the question is which of the two—CDC and UP, which will these political heavyweights give their supports? Will they keep the UP’s longevity for additional six years of 18 year rule or will they go for an opposition win over the ruling party? According to some political pundits, ANC and Senator Johnson will go toward supporting UP’s Boakai while others including Jones, Urey and other might support CDC’s Weah; others pundits expressed optimistic that LP’s Brumskine wouldn’t support any of the two run-off parties.
Unfortunately, the precise state of key political players does not support any optimism that any of them is prepared to preform if given state power today. The ultimate quest of these politicians-most of whom are political corrupt but with sheep clothing would be considered as some hopeless utopian expeditionists; they have put into place an obscure plan using false innuendo to disadvantage the poverty-stricken masses and illiterate population, majority of whom constitute bulk of the electorates. The presence of free press brings public corruption cases to the voters while voters in a democracy, in turn punish corrupt politicians by ousting them from public offices.
With less than three months, Liberians will again exercise their constitutional obligations to go to the poll to elect the next president. Liberians now see the 2017 General Elections as the only hope and aspiration to graduate from a political static mentality that has sunk the nation in a state of merry-go-round.
Amidst of growing frustrations and disenchantment in the country, it will require the UP an uphill battle to rally the weary enthusiasm to re-invent the 2005 and 2011 Ellenaism and party’s die-hard partisans, political based, enthusiasts, followers and sympathizers. In this political manipulation, the Boakai’s movement and connoisseurs have to work over time but will the UP campaign on the successes and failures of the 12 years leadership?
One might asked: Where is the UP’s critical and powerful establishment and youthful based, those whose ran in the heavy down-pour of rain and sun during these two successive elections of 2005 and 2011; frustration have taken some beyond the world, some abandoned while others move into other parties or other directions, with few of the partisans have benefited and still benefiting, but bulk face growing frustration.
Unfortunately, those diehards and energetic UP partisans and supporters are perpetually silenced, down-hearted while others have moved to opposition parties; the 2011 enthusiasms for UP have since evaporated and this time around will take a demanding encounter to re-invent the 2011 spirit as the governing party based is weary, that is while the Boakai movement has step in to fill the vacuum..
The affection for president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the contemporary politics of Liberia is in two-forth-depending on which of the sides you find yourself, however, let wait and see how the affection for the president is going to be when she shall relinquish power to her heir. What is unknown is will people overcome with emotions and cry with tears; some will say it will be an unique movement, the end of the Sirleaf’s era for the mother of four children, while for others, she will be departing the political sense with a varied warn handshake. But many are wondering whether President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s factors will me an added advantage or disadvantage for the Boakai’s ticket? Johnson-Sirleaf has persistently said: Either Boakai run on all that we have achieved together or he shy-away from our gains.
the president was never elected to evokes only Ellenaism but to invest for the people a new and thriving Liberia that entails quality education, reduce poverty and eliminate corruption, justice for all, rule of law, economic and job security and massive employment, these were the dreams of bulk of the population that voted her into office in these 2005 and 2011 elections.
Historically, Liberia has not seemed a great leader who has removed majority of the impoverished population from object poverty, so what Liberians wanted was someone with internal and international expertise and contacts to deliver with successes and sustainability, and not one who starved the population with economic viability and derelict their livelihood.
President Johnson-Sirleaf was seemed as a magic touch in the body politics of Liberia in 2005 and 2011, too, being granted in politics and fought bad governances in the past. The people needed a leader who could pass the ball around to the rest of the team mates and keep the spectators in a happy mood, not a meditative disposition, therefore during the past successive presidential election, Johnson-Sirleaf was a people person who many believed came with the reservoir ideas of how to fix the fragmented economics, reduce poverty and unemployment in the country, create enormous jobs and provide security for the entire population, ensure quality educations and unique health delivery system booming in the country.
Those who lead the Johnson-Sirleaf’s spectacles across the country during the 2005 and 2011 elections are either left out without a job or resigned their posts or being dismissed, while others have been abandoned. According to information, there are deep political wound in her Unity Party resulting mass exodus of some establishment and based to seek political relevant with other opposition parties.
The reality is that the bulk of the population is frustrated and dejected; no doubt, any one running on the ruling Unity Party ticket in the 2017 elections faces a knotty task for election; there is no Unity Party phenomenon around, therefore the Boakai Movement is dissociating the UP flag bearer from the ruling party. the party will need magic to maintain its reign.
Without doubts, the political players are definitely going to make these elections a referendum on the UP and not Joseph Baokai in person, since the Boakai camp is well equipped with political ammunition to protect the Veep President believability and not the Unity Party, which they have since started, urging populace to look at Baokai as an individual; the same goes to Senator Weah but just like the Boakai movement, the CDC partisans are political charged and persuasive to defend Senator Weah’s record to the end.
Arguably, it is often said that democracy is just a concept that allows participation of the people in decisions which impact their lives, but one may ask: Is this inimical to Liberia? The answer, to some extent is yes, since Liberians especially the electorates do not stand up for what they believe to demand their leaders at the national levels to deliver on their promises; a classical example is the passes of bad laws and concession agreements which are signed into law.
In other countries, the people hold their leaders’ feet to the fire to fulfill their promises, but for Liberia, the situation is to the dissimilar. That is why during these electorate exercise, the masses are taken for a short ride moreover and very consistently for granted by those seeking their votes; all is squally due to ignorance by our people due to the high rate of illiteracy in the country. The people, bulk of the voting population are taken for granted by the corrupt bureaucrats and political oriented officials.
Democracy is generally perceived as a political system in which the supreme power lies in the citizens whose are the only custodians of state power in that they constitute electorates of those entrusted with state power to represent them (Webster, Daniel 1830). That means that all the people should be able to have their say one way or the other in everything that affects their lives.
Most importantly, the process-service as a conduit for the nation to constitutionally move another step forward; provides an prospect for those eying the presidency to advance their respective strategies, distinctive platforms and manifestos. The 2017 poll should not be used by avaricious politicians and other bureaucrats to exploit the poverty-stricken masses’ vulnerability; these elections shouldn’t be reduced to tribal and regional, instead it should be classed as a precise movement for positivity in Liberia.
Our people need to realize that the combination of strength and distance inspired a confidence that any challenge could be overcome after it had prevented itself. When a group of political individuals vying for elections are so constituted are obligated to deal with one another, there are only two possible outcomes; either one party becomes so strong that it dominates all the other to be the only voice or no political party is ever quite powerful enough to achieve the goal.
In such a daunting situation, the pretensions of the most influential and strong party is kept in check by a combination of coalition of parties, in other words, to deny a single political party from clinching victory. Yet, let it be known that the foremost purpose for a coalition is to form a united front, to limit the ability of one party especially the ruling party dynasty.
However, this arrangement cannot satisfy every member of the coalition completely instead it works best when it keeps dissatisfaction below the certain lead or tussles for powers. Intellectually, the concept of a coalition reflects conviction of all the major political thinkers and players of the establishment of the arrangement. In some instances, political thinkers benefited from the results of condition without being involved in its maneuvers and while enjoying the luxury of castigating it at will. For example, political figures whose castigate or poured insult of the President are accommodated to lucrative positions.
On January 16, 2018 Johnson-Sirleaf leaves office having presides over two successive terms, that is a fact; she to some extend has done well, but you wouldn’t find many people agreeing with you, though, that Sirleaf is well known on the globe stage, but has that brought any tangible and greater benefits to the nation in term of provide basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads, safe drinking water, jobs, quality education, available and affordable health care for their livelihood and unborn generations?
Assuming-perhaps as a result of the hardship in the country, the bulk of the electorates is expected to naively make wrong decisions to elect the folks before they realize the consequential backlash of their decisions. Owing to the poverties and destitution prevalent across the country, the indication is the bulk of the electorates will vote with frustration, fury and resentment, as suffering in the country will overplay in the democratic process in 2017. But let it be made clear that in term of substance, the various political parties come with nothing that give much hopes and aspirations, instead the same old story with empty impracticable promises.
Let it be understood that this administration bore the gravest burden of responsibilities because the decision to enhance positivity and inspire with increased provision of education to buttress voters’ credibility to make the right choice ultimately rested on its shoulder; there is no time for excuses since exercises placed politicians and political parties in the opposition’s community in the advantageous situation.
However, in order for the 2017 democratic process to play in the current administration’s favor or its chosen candidate, the government needs to do more to deliver a bravura performance to change the dynamics of the political playing pitch which can generate youth enthusiasm. The youthful population constitutes bulk of the electorates.
The nation has had two successive democracies in its history of existence, the 2005 and 2011 General Elections backed by stability, credit to the current administration for such a gain but much are expected in other areas. The enabling democratic environment currently obtaining in the country has led to the increase of political parties, free press and a vibrant civil society institution.
Now a day every Dick and Tom appeared to have solution to the numerous problems facing this country. While registered political parties in the country are about sixty-five; by the time the nation goes to the polls, these political parties numbers are expected to double by half. Some of these so-called would be contenders have not won a Susu Club election while some are being hosted in a shared apartment, but yet they want the people of Liberian to trust them with the nation’s highest office; what a national disgrace. What a political shame for a country with less than four million populations.
Generally, they fall far too below the ability to possess the muscles that will propel them to play a cardinal role in influencing public policy and providing checks and balances wherein the government will not operate as an exclusive authority or law and gospel unto its self and not being answerable to the custodians (the people) of power in keeping with the nation’s constitution. These parties are not able to exercise oversight beginning with their members, moreover to run their offices professionally, effectively and smoothly.
Viable political parties and effective party system are fundamental to building a strong democracy across the country but political institutions and organizations are too puny, most of them are surviving from individual pockets. As a result, political institutions especially parties are built around individuals, such is the case of the governing Unity Party, CDC, Liberty Party, ALP, UPP, LAP, and several others. Whenever these individuals whose influences and financial assistance these parties are operating on are no more around, such a party is doomed and definitely will collapse; why? As an evident, this has been the case of several political parties such as the TWP, NPP, UPP, LUP, LAP and NDPL.
For instance, two former ruling parties-NDPL and NPP were exclusively centered on the financial supports and influences of ex-presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor; and true to the hard facts of reality, these two parties no longer possess the political dynamism in this era to occupy the presidency, while the ruling Unity Party likeability among voters has vanished along with its shrinking influence in the political dynamism is gradually melting away, thereby posing a daunting task for the Boakai-driven UP to take state power in 2017. But a question from skeptics is when will that generation of politicians ever learn?
This situation is not only limited to political parties but also extended to organizations and institutions in the country. Many persons have expressed fears that the departure of President Sirleaf from the political scene will ultimately be the end of the ruling Unity Party’s once respected and widely recognized leadership, thus shaping state power to another party.
The question is which party with the political juice and substance to measure up to the eagerly awaited expectations of the wailing for positive and realistic change? Until political parties and institutions in the country can be prepared to smoothly operate outside the sways and pockets of individuals, Liberia’s political system is stuck in a gloomy orbit and properly set to suffer a downward trail.
Unarguably, if Senator George Weah, Senator Prince Johnson, Cllr. Charles W. Brusmskine, Simeon Freeman, Benoni Urey and Dr. Mills Jones were to terminate their memberships from the CDC, Liberty Party, ALP, MOVEE, MPC, these parties will lose their essence, steam and dynamism and would politically succumb from the political scene. One of these parties, in the 2017 presidential election is likely to be the king or the kings-maker, a trophy colonized by Senator Prince Johnson as evident in the 2011 elections.
Amazingly, despite the Unity Party’s obvious eleven years successes in some areas, unambiguous strategies for electorates for the third times to reward the party remains a challenging task to overcome in 2017. The UP has its own in-house unfavorable political situation-it is the party’s establishment versus the party’s base with the establishment firm behind Veep Boakai. But the question is can Boakai win without the steady involvement of the party based-energetic group that is credited for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s two successive elections.
However, when political parties and civil society institutions are consistent in their programmatic and broad-based interests, democracy at all levels will flourish. There are number of factors which are important to the democratic system including the effectiveness of political parties and civil society institutions to ably represent the masses in advocating their well-being and interest.
While In addition, democratic consolidation is dependent on people’s participation. Liberia needs to transform and build stronger political institutions and not ones that are solely supported by an individual or only exist based on the heart beats of the exclusive all powerful who alone plays the piper and therefore calls for the note. Supporting the development of parties and party structures under this current government poses a major challenge that should be given high priority.
Today Liberia is classed as a “post conflict’ country (Ki-Moon, Ban 2011), making significantly progress away from war, has seen a gigantic decrease in conflict across the country at both national and local levels, even though critical issues still remain unaddressed with factors of potential conflict continuing to manifest in several practices. The issues of youth empowerment, jobs creation, reconciliation and the elimination of feeble governance undermines the nation’s emerging democracy, and persist as menace to stability and peace.
Representative democracy certainly provides for changes in government without violence while power can be transferred from one party to another by means of elections, this what we all are anticipating in 2017. But free and fairs elections, though a cardinal component, are neither the beginning nor the end of democracy; they instead formed part of the attributes of sustaining a credible process of democracy.
According to Webster dictionary, the most common definition of democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people’ while to put it another way we can say that a government comes from the people; it is exercised by the people, and for the purpose of the people’s own interests.
Democracy by another definition means a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them. That means that all the people should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives. It can also be defined as the political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives. It provides for changes in government without violence while power can be transferred from one party to another by means of elections.
During these elections, all parties’ candidates and independent candidates campaigned freely across their constituencies while the presidential candidates campaigned throughout the country, presenting their visions and platforms or agenda to the voters by either personal interactions and through the local media. However, the local media on a large scale regularly betrothed into biased reporting by treating some candidates with favor, while the rest are not given free media access to present their cases to the people.
As a matter of fact, let look at the recent past, the fracture of the media was such that affluent candidates bought some media houses while others have established theirs to directly propagate their political agenda outside conventional and ethical media practices (2012 BBC report). To buttress this claims, Monrovia which hosts a population of about 1.4 million has over 65 newspapers, about 45 FM radio stations and eight television stations; by 2017 the number of newspapers and radio stations would reached 80 and 55, respectively.
Regrettably, a negative side effect sets in during this period, generating protestations and wailing by some opposition parties who went about complaining that they were denied total access to public facilities. Notwithstanding, the system allows voters to cast secret ballots, free of intimidation, violence and inducement.
The exercise allows independent observers to observe the voting and the vote counting to ensure that the process is free of corruption, intimidation, and fraud. The political environment remains stable, horrifying sounds of guns and other deadly artillery have not been part of the dispensation. but there are still serious unsettled challenges which threaten the sustainability of peace in the country.
Several programs at the national level to repair broken ties between the government and the people remain fragmentary, public institutions and agencies responsible for mending broken wounds have not done much in their assigned tasks. The police and other law enforcement visibility are mainly present in the seat of government, leaving the rural parts of the country vulnerable.
The former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon in his 2010 detailed reports to the Security Council on political, economic and security situation in Liberia, described the current democracy in the country as ‘fragile’, expressing fears that the country might slip back into conflict upon the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia(UNMIL). But President Johnson-Sirleaf in her recent Annual Address to the nation stated the country security apparatus are ready to take over security in the absent of UNMIL.
In his instructive book title: Liberia’s Emerging Democracy, the author- Josephus Moses Gray argued that when the masses are vulnerable under such a state of privilege, electorates make their choices on the basis of primeval issues such as religion, ethnicity, race and personality, rather than alternative developmental programs voters rarely and genuinely expressed their opinion since, for them, the ballot is essentially a token exchange in an immediate, highly personalized relationship of dependency.
Presently, criminality is on the rise – from highway and armed robberies to pick-pocketing amongst other felonious and petty crimes. Besides, political contentions that could lead to societal chaos and political instability have remained unresolved. The young people participation in post-election violence and dozens of other violent scenarios persistently masterminded by their disgruntled youth and students in Monrovia and parts of the country need to be addressed.
These instances of post conflict violence have undermined progress to move the country away from civil disorder and political turbulence. This is troubling especially for our democracy. Several public and private facilities have suffered great destruction at the hands of violent youth; these persistent acts have disproved the scrupulous acceptability, application and workings of universal doctrine of democratic elections as a guide to determine stability and peace.
Notwithstanding, the latter has turned out to be an open secret that if at all Liberians have not tongue-tasted democracy directly or indirectly, then it is and must begin to form a salient feature to confront radically, as they (people) troop and prepare themselves to ensure that the 2017 and beyond bear witness that indeed the rightful decisions are made for the benefit of the greater population.
Josephus Moses Gray