A Comprehensive Analysis of October’s Ten Presidential Election in Liberia ….CDC’s Weah or UP’s Boakai—Who is At the Threshold of State Power?

By: Josephus Moses Gray/Email:graymoses@yahoo.com|

Josephus Moses Gray – Author

With less than two months to this year’s October ten elections in the country, there is a wide assumption that the Presidential Race represents a long-awaited peaceful transition of state power in Liberian politics with CDC’s Weah and UP’s Boakai are at the threshold of power. However, will it be the reigning Unity Party (UP) Joseph Bookie or the main opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) George Weah? Can we say Charles Brumskine of Liberty Party, Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the votes’ rich Nimba County or a new comer from an unfamiliar political background like ANC’s Cummings, MOVEE’s Jones, or ALP’s Urey or UPP’s Wanto? Will voters go for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s heir in term of the same qualities, leadership style or go for the opposite?

The electoral system allows voters to cast secret ballots, free of intimidation, violence and inducement; it further gives electorates the options to make their choices on the basis of alternative developmental programs instead of primeval issues such as religion, ethnicity, race and personality. It provides for changes in government without violence while power can be transferred from one party to another by means of majority decisions-the highest votes count.

Most importantly, the process-service as a conduit for the nation to move another step forward; provides an opportunity for those eying the presidency to advance their respective strategies, distinctive platforms and manifestos and understanding of state power. The 2017 poll should not be used by avaricious politicians and other bureaucrats to exploit the poverty-stricken masses’ vulnerability; instead it should be classed as a precise movement for positivity in Liberia.

As Liberia goes to the poll on October ten first round of the winnabe contested presidential election, twenty-two candidates are all in with a chance of winning or making it to the top two, but the question is: Which of the 22 candidates that holds the chemistry to win on the First ballot or which of the two will qualify for the traditional  second round that’s referred to as run-off?

But judging by persistent polls, one party cannot win on the first ballot, however, two candidates, CDC’s Weah and UP’s Boakai are at the threshold of power but they all have odds. They are leading an improbable quest to become the heir to President Johnson-Sirleaf. They have seen daylight and are confident to cause a major upset, but the unpredictability of Liberian voters remain a standing factor in the way of candidates.  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.

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 would support a opposition ticket.

The current state of the politics of Liberia remain, at best, unwarranted, as there is a wide assumption that the election result would be manipulated in favor of a particular candidates but the reality of this election is that public frustration is high over the failure of politicians to deliver on past promises, there would be a huge   disillusioned voters who abstain could determine the outcome—either play again or favor a particular candidates.

Unlike the past, 2005 poll, Senator Weah undergoes a distinct alteration in his campaign — a tactical shift and a calculated in his uphill campaign to replace President Johnson-Sirleaf while the Boakai camp is portraying the Vice President as the best option for the president but the presence of other heavyweights like LP’s Brumskine, Senator Johnson, ANC’s Cummings, MOVEE’s Jones, or ALP’s Urey have introduced new dynamism in the presidential election. Other candidates have also embarked on a strategy campaigns, focusing on the leeward countries, as part of a broader strategy to draw and win more voters over.

But when it comes to campaigns for the presidency, we’ve really only seen one side of Liberian politicians; they all presented their manifestos but these platforms lack detailed policies how they intend to bring about share prosperity and move the country forward. We have not yet experienced their genuineness of these presidential candidates to make the October’s election issues centered and not personality.

In recent time, likeability of these candidates has taken a dramatic turn; they are drawing huge crowd, congregating to these political parties gathering, lavish t-shirts and expensive placards are flying across the country and street corners, while radio stations broadcasts are engulfed with pro and anti- songs, jingles, and messages; the same goes in the various daily publications with pages of newspapers from the banner headlines on the front page and the back page captions, depicting pro and anti-stories in favor or again a particular candidates.

The local media especially radio stations 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, but others have argued that elections require money and publicity is not a cheap business—propounding that elections are money driven, they must be paid for if a particular candidates should get their messages across to the largest voting population.

But in the case of state owned LBS, the situation is different; all candidates must be treated fairly and given equal space since the national Radio Station is owned by the state. Nevertheless, it is uncertain if LBS is giving all presidential candidates equal treat and air space to reach Liberians across the 15 political sub-division.

In recent time, various media relating organizations have been conducting self-style polls and statistical models to present a vivid picture of the candidate that the October’s 10th presidential election favored, but the authenticity of their polls remained unknown.

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. 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. 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, the country voters are unpredictable, that a new comer triumph would be the biggest political shock yet.

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.   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 will the 2017 General Election bring about the much anticipated result? Will the process be a referendum on the governing Unity Party led-government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP? Liberia as a playing patch hosts twenty-two individuals-occupying different positions with the national Election Commission (NEC) serving as the chief referrer, at the end of the electoral match, one candidate with conquest the rest to replace President Johnson-Sirleaf, and inherit the enormous challenges.

Unfortunately, the precise state of key political players does not support any optimism that any of them is prepared to preform magic if given state power. The ultimate quest of these politicians would be considered as some hopeless utopian expeditionists; they have put into place obscure plans using false innuendos coupled with huge promises to disadvantage the poverty-stricken masses and illiterate population.

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.

The question goes further if  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 or what’s referred to as run-off usually between the governing Unity Party (UP) Joseph Boakai  and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah? Or will this time be between two new faces or bring an old face and news face in the second round? No matter what the circumstance entails, one of the twenty-two candidates will be elected to replace President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

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.

The Johnson-Sirleaf’s regime has it positivity and negativity, and who so ever becomes winner, must be prepared to face inherit challenges, as the emotion continues to develop, the people especially the poverty-driven ones expect magic touch. But there are deep political wound in almost all the political parties resulting mass exodus of some establishment and based to seek political relevant with other parties.  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.

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.

Despite the Unity Party’s obvious twelve years successes in some areas, unambiguous strategies for electorates for the third times to reward the party remains a challenging task to overcome in this year poll. The UP has its own in-house unfavorable political situation-it is the party’s establishment versus the party’s base with the based firm behind Veep Boakai backed by the boakai’s Movement. But the question is can Boakai win without the steady involvement of the party establishment which was credited for the two two successive elections?

This situation is not only limited to ruling UPP but cut across all political parties in the 2017 presidential race.  In recent time, there has been party’s establishment and based crossing carpet from one party to another, seeking political accommodations and relevant. But a question from skeptics is when will this generation of politicians ever learn?

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.

In a poor country like Liberia, politicians know how to play on 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 will only be a stepping stone for corruption where the wrong people are given power because of the financial power.

Accordingly, 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. Disappointingly, this has become the dominant way in which democracy is now conceived in a contemporary Liberian society.

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 processes, 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 crooked most of whom are in leadership.

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 critical political 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. Nowadays in Liberia, not a single party can win the presidential election; either the ruling party or the strongest opposition party for coalition or alliances to reach its single most goal in these processes. As President Johnson-Sirlef has repeatedly said no one single party without coalition or alliances will win on the first ballot.

However, let it be known that the foremost purpose for a coalition or alliance is to form a united front, to limit the ability of one party’s domination. Let it be understood that this arrangement cannot satisfy every member of the coalition or alliance completely instead it works best when it keeps dissatisfaction below the certain lead or tussles for powers; it requires political understanding and protecting all members’ interests.  Intellectually, the concept of a coalition or alliance 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 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, let it also be understood, that different situations in different countries demand different methods; therefore who so ever win the October’s presidential poll need to understand that the situation in Liberia should be treated under our common democratic acceptable system, should immediately institute populace actions to win back the people’s aspirations, there should be no room for tone of excuses and blame game.

The issues of 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 economics practicability and empowerment of the poor, high prices of basic commodities and merchandises and lack of jobs creation should demanded the instant attention of the next president without destroying the gains and programs of the current administration, to some extend the Johnson-Sirleaf’s regime has did well even though it has its own shortcomings.

By: Josephus Moses Gray

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About Cholo Brooks 15400 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.