By: Josephus Moses Grayemail@example.com
Never has a Liberian presidential election captivated so many national and international interests and commentators before. And the stakes in this race are high. The question is who replaces President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf? Will the presidential race this time break away from the past by ending in the first round or like history, be obliged to engage the traditional second round ballot or what’s referred to as run-off between the governing Unity Party (UP) Joseph Boakai and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah? Or will it be another new comer- a Johnny-just-come from an unfamiliar political background?
But as the world has witnessed in shock over the past year, polls and statistical models do not always come to fruition. If they did, Hillary Clinton would now be president of the United States and David Cameron would still be prime minister of a Brexit-less Britain.
And in Liberia, a country that has a huge illiteracy rate in Africa, the voters might go for new faces or an old face and a new comer; the country voters are unpredictable. Given the evidence of the past year, it would be unwise to discount such a Boakai-Weah in the run-of. It is also true, however, that a new comer triumph would be the biggest political shock yet.
By way of comparison and taking curb from the recent American and French elections, the gulf was never even close to being so large for Trump against Clinton, not even when he was seen as a total outsider upon first announcing his nomination in the summer of 2015.
Two weeks ahead of the election, Trump was between five and 10 points behind Hillary Clinton. In swing states, the margin was only a couple of percentage points. And, of course, as it turned out, Trump did end up losing the popular vote but winning the White House. Therefore the other presidential candidates including LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings, MOVEE’s Jones, Senator Johnson or Urey cannot be ruled out of the process.
Unfortunately, the issue of vote buying is greatly impacting these elections and might leads to the wrong people being elected public offices of trust. In a poor country like Liberia, politicians know how to play on the vulnerability of poverty stricken electorates, most of whom have no means of livelihood. These politicians take advantage of poor electorates’ weaknesses and their hardships in life. That is why even when the act is illegal and unlawful, like selling votes; they instantly resort to it to easily come up with a solution to their problem, like poverty. On the long run, the vote buying mow becomes a stepping stone for corruption where the wrong people are given power because of the financial power.
According to Hickens, vote buying involves the individual, immediate, and private exchange of goods, services, or cash for electoral support, usually in violation of legal norms; vote buying can be categorized into two types: direct vote buying and indirect vote buying. Both types, according to researchers on elections are widely used mostly in Africa where about seventy-five percent of elections have been questionable.
Propounding further, Hickens in his 2006 publication defined direct voting buying as the most common type of vote buying where direct payments, in many forms, are given to the voter. It may be in the form of cash donations or a promise of a particular plan of action or payment in exchange for a promise of vote while indirect vote buying is a kind of vote buying done in a non-obvious and up-front approach, this type of vote buying is very common in Liberia, it is form of using campaign strategies that target the weaknesses and vulnerability of poverty stricken electorate.
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. 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?
However, Liberty Party’s Charles Brumskine and the other new faces should not be taken for granted; it appeared this time around they are financially potent and ready for the presidential race.
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 bulks of the needy populace.
Nevertheless, can the three new comers-Jones, 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 Y. 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.
To elect the new Liberian president, voters go to the polls twice. Unless one candidate can get a majority of more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round (held on October this year), the two candidates who receive the highest scores will face each other in a run-up. The candidates most likely to reach the second round are currently Vice President Boakai and Senator Weah, meaning both candidates will fight for the Liberian presidency after dozens of other heavyweights candidates shall crashed out of the first round.
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.
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, 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?
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.
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?
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.
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 five-month to this year’s 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?
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.
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.
Nowadays in Liberia, every Dick and Tom appeared to have solution to the numerous problems facing this country. Some of these aspirants have not won a Susu Club or community elections while some these fly by night political parties 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 to have twenty presidential candidates and over one thousand candidates for just seventy-five legislative seats for this year’s elections.
Generally, political parties and candidates 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.
Most of these so-called parties are surviving from individual pockets, a result, political institutions especially parties are built around individuals. The parties that are form in this class include 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?
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. Part three of this article on vote trading will subsequently be released in a week time.
About the Author: Josephus Moses Gbala-hinnih Gray is an Assistant Professor at the University of Liberia Graduate School and Under-Graduate Program. He is a native born Liberian, hails from the Southeastern village of Kayken Chiefdom in Barclayville, Grand Kru County. He is an author, professor, journalist, diplomat and scholar with a wealth of rich credentials, including a doctoral in International Relations and Diplomacy, MA in International Relations and BA in Communications. He once worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs as Programs Coordinator and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia as Assistant Minister for Public Affairs and later undertook oversea diplomatic post at the Embassy of Liberia in Paris with distinction as a Political Counselor and later appointed as Master Counselor to Geneva at Liberian Permanent to the UN and International Organizations. He is a graduate of the USA ICFA Global Journalism Program in Washington D.C., USA; he further holds post-graduate diplomas and certificates in International Relations , Journalism, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy Studies, Public Policy, Peace Studies, Digital Media, Conflict Management and Analysis, Project Management and Development Communications, from the United States of America, France, Netherlands, China, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Liberia. He has authored two books, published Two Graduate Studies Theses and a 600-page Doctoral Dissertation on the theme: “Geopolitics of African Oil and Energy: China and America New Strategic Interests in Africa”. He has written extensively and published over 45 articles on variety of contemporary issues. He can be contacted at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org