MONROVIA – Political endorsement and support for the presidential run-off elections appear to be characterized by huge demands for the apportioning of cabinet positions and financial inducement between the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the opposition Unity Party (UP).
President George Manneh Weah and former Liberian Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai are standard bearers of the CDC and UP, respectively.
The runoff election is expected to take place on November 14. It was necessitated by the failure of the 20 parties and independent candidates that contested the elections to obtain 50 percent plus one vote in keeping with the 1986 Liberian Constitution.
As a result of the pronouncement, the quest to lure the support or endorsement of few political parties, elected senatorial and representative candidates and other potential political actors has intensified between the CDC and UP.
Boakai, Weah as well as executives of their political parties and campaign teams have been meeting with other political parties and figures underscoring the need to have either of them supported or endorsed during the runoff.
However, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that these political talks being held with the CDC and UP for endorsement have been marred by multiple requests from other parties for political accommodation, including job provision to its executives and stalwarts, request for finances, among others.
For decades now, political endorsements of presidential candidates during runoff elections in Liberia have been driven by financial influence.
Parties making it to the runoff, especially the ruling party, are influenced the process by offering unspecified huge sum of monies to those they referred to as “kingmakers” to deliver specific regions or counties ahead of the second round of voting.
At times, these financial inducements backfire when executives or supporters of the political party accepting financial offers to endorse or cross over are left out of the negotiation or distribution processes.
This act of betrayal has prompted disenchanted executives and partisans of these parties to either expel or suspend their political leaders and others for engaging into a negotiation process without the consent of their respective National Executives Committee (NEC).
In February 2012, former warlord and Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson was expelled by the Executive Committee of the opposition National Union for Democratic Progress (NUDP) as its Political Leader and member.
Senator Johnson was accused at the time of unilaterally declaring his support for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the runoff of the 2011 presidential election without the consent of the party’s National Executive Committee.
He was accused of receiving bribes in exchange of votes from the ex-Liberian leader.
In 2011, he was also accused of receiving huge sum of money to endorse President Weah over Ambassador Boakai during the November 7 runoff elections.
In validation of these allegations, Senator Johnson was sanctioned by the United States government under the Magnisky Act for being allegedly involved into “pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment.”
The US claimed that as part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the Government of Liberia (GOL), the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants.
It added that the pay-for-play funding scheme involves millions of U.S. dollars.
“Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money,” the US government maintained.
Popular talk show Host Henry Costa, who was a fierce critic of President George Manneh Weah, stand accused of receiving huge sum of money to endorse and support President Weah and the CDC ahead of the runoff. As evidenced to this, the All Liberian Party (ALP), who Costa is also a Stalwart of, endorsed President Weah at a former ceremony held at the party’s headquarters on Sunday, October 29.
Provision of jobs for executives and supporters of defeated political parties and candidates is another key issue placed on the table during presidential runoff elections in Liberia.
This was one of the main issues that reportedly topped the recent meeting held between the CDC, the All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP) and GDM of E. Wade Appleton. It was made by executives of the ruling party and the government.
Standard Bearers and their running mates appearing to be “kingmakers” normally make demands for them or other members of their parties’ executive committees to be accommodated or given the opportunity to serve in government.
This has contributed to an increase in the number of incompetent and unqualified individuals in the public sector over the years.
The names of these half-baked or uneducated are submitted for possible employment as Ministers, Directors and others at various government ministries and agencies, thereby depriving competent and qualified Liberians from serving in these positions.
Political patronage or accommodation continues to supersede the interest and forward match of the country and slowdown efficiency and effectiveness in public service delivery to the Liberian people.
The new wave of politicking in Liberia is not about the interest of the country. Politics is now based on the need to payback; tell lies, deceits and the fulfillment of personal aggrandizement over patriotism and the holding of integrity.
Only few political parties and defeated candidates are on record for not holding a single closed door discussion or meeting with political parties that made it to the runoff.
Last week, the Liberian People’s Party (LPP) of Counselor Tiawan Gongloe endorsed the UP without meeting with President Weah or Ambassador Boakai.
Previously, the party held consultations with its supporters in the diaspora and at home to back its decision.
The Liberia First Movement (LFM) and its Presidential Candidate Shiekh Kouyateh also follow suit.
Some political parties, senatorial and representative candidates who have won the elections in their respective counties and districts would choose to remain neutral during the run-off, while others are planning to hold discussions with their supporters on which way to go.
For a prolong period of time, love for country or patriotism has been downplayed in Liberia. Many politicians cannot be trusted with their statements as they could be tongue-twisted anytime.
The pledging of support or political alignment is based upon the offers from the competing parties.
Alexander Cummings, Standard Bearer of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) is on record for vowing to ensure that his party supports the opposition political party that will make it to the runoff with President Weah.
But on the contrary, his party’s Chairman Musa Hassan Bility has promised not to be a part of any decision to turn Liberia over to UP Standard Bearer Joseph Nyuma Boakai.
The lawsuit instituted against Mr. Cummings by Benoni Urey, of the All Liberian Party (ALP) appears to be an unforgotten scenario which continues to ring bell in the ears of the CPP Political Leader and his supporters.
Mr. Cummings has already held discussions with both Boakai and Weah in the absence of Chairman Bility.
The possibility of him living up to his consistent vow to support the opposition appears to be uncertain. However, with reports of reconciliation talks between Cummings, Boakai and major stakeholders, a reunion and new political marriage would likely be cemented to pave the way for his political future.
Sticky issues surrounding endorsements
Bad blood and mixed feelings have ensued among members of the CDC executive committee and campaign team over the unilateral decision taken by President Weah and few members of his campaign team to reunite with Costa few days to the runoff elections.
Costa’s support to Weah was reportedly initiated by the Chairman of the campaign team Eugene Nagbe and Representative Fonati Koffa.
CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu, Secretary General Jefferson Koijee and other high ranking executives and sponsors of the ruling party are reportedly not favoring the return of Costa to the camp of Weah.
As evidenced by this, no public comments have been made by key executives of the party since Costa was seen in recent photographs with President Weah upon his return to the country.
They continue to question the rationale behind the reported payment of US$60,000 to Costa for his “two-week” support to the party at a time many other partisans and supporters of the CDC are foot-soldering on empty stomach and numerous promises made by the campaign team to compensate them since the start of the campaign for the first round of voting have not come to fruition.
The lack of trust for Costa, who has used disparaging and derogatory statements against President Weah and key government officials for several years, may be a contributing factor for the cold shouldering he is presently receiving from many hierarchies of the party.
Urey risks expulsion
In the coming days, ALP Chairman Benoni Urey, and others risk being suspended or expelled from the party for going contrary to a decision taken by delegates at the January 2022 convention to endorse Ambassador Boakai.
The decision was reached when Mr. Urey made it clear that he had no interest in contesting for the presidency.
This has also prompted many executives and partisans of the ALP to deflect from the party for the UP.
Last week, scores of defeated Representatives and Senatorial candidates who contested the October 10 elections on the ticket of the All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP) sounded a caveat to the party’s leadership against leaving them out of any negotiation process ahead of the runoff.
In a statement issued in Monrovia on Monday, October 23, the ALCOP Representatives and Senatorial candidates pointed out that as committed and influential leaders in their respective counties and districts who acquired more than 100,000 votes they remain a significant and determining factor to decide the next President of Liberia.
They noted that their supporters have reposed their trust and confidence in them to provide direction for the presidential run-off elections.
“We the ALCOP Candidates Caucus 2023 want to assure and reassure our people in our constituencies, abundantly, emphatically and crystal clear that we have made no decision as individual or organization as to which party to support in this upcoming run-off elections.”
The holding of political commitments after general elections in Liberia has been an aged-old issue in Liberia.
It has contributed to political divorce between the ruling CDC and other constituent parties.
The Movement for Democratic Reconstruction (MDR) of Senator Prince Johnson, that endorsed and supported President Weah, during the presidential runoff elections in 2017, consistently complained of the Liberian Chief Executive not living up to the agreement reached with the party, including the provision of key ministerial positions to its executives.
As a result of this, the MDR withdrew its support from President Weah and the CDC and endorsed Ambassador Boakai.
The Liberian People Democratic Party (LPDP) of former House Speaker Alex Tyler, which is one of the constituent parties of the CDC, has complained in similar manner and form, something which prompted the party to part way with the governing party.
Sitting on the fence
In Liberia, many influential citizens, including Nobel laureate, lawyers, Clergymen, among others prefer to “sit on the fence” and watch the political happenings in the country, void of taking side or endorsing a particular candidate.
Though these individual may be supporting various political parties or candidates “under cover”, their failure to make those supports or endorsements public continue to provide no direction for their followers or supporters.
Citizens may want for their votes or decisions to be directed by individuals who have the moral standing and integrity to do so.
However, they have not been guided by influential Liberians who continue to support their political parties and candidates in secret.
Business tycoons dare not to openly endorse or speak about their choices during electioneering periods for fear of reprisal or attacks from rival supporters or groups.
As the November 14 presidential runoff between the CDC and UP draws nearer, the scrabble for retaining jobs, pledging of support for political accommodation or financial inducement, the stage-managing of endorsement programs would continue to take center stage in the political sphere of the post-conflict nation.
However, those making decisions on which side to support based on patriotism or love for country could be positioning themselves to stand a better political chance in future elections.