The United States Atlanta based Carter Center is raising a red flag here ahead of the October 10, 2017 presidential and legislative polls, with fear that the unprecedented tribal allegiance in this year’s election risk “aggravating historic tension”.
“Liberian politics have frequently been marked by ethnic rivalries, but this campaign has seen them injected into the presidential contest to a greater degree than in the recent past. In the counties, local populations use language that borders on divisive and speak about electing “one of their own” or putting “one of their men in office.” The Center’s election observes wrote in their first pre-election statement.
The center took keen notes of how candidates in the race have selected their running mate based on their appeal along tribal lines. “While this can be seen as part of the normal political process of building support, at the same time, it runs the risk of aggravating historic tensions,” the Center’s observers wrote.
Aside the tribal hype in this year’s politics, Liberia has a history of divide between the Americo-Liberians referred to as the Congo people and indigenous people known as the natives. This year’s election appears to have deepened such divide. The observers appear to have been concern about remarks made by speakers in Bong County about post –election reconciliation as well as the importance of ensuring that all Liberians accept the results of a credible process.
The Center calls on candidates to exercise caution in their rhetoric and remind their supporters that no matter their ethnic group or heritage, they and their opponents are all Liberians. Besides ethnic politics, the Center observed that a number of parties are engaging in large-scale recruitment campaigns in which party activists gather voter registration information from potential supporters.
They described the practice as not illegal though “if done in a manner that doesn’t compromise the secrecy of the ballot or leave voters with a fear of retribution.”
The used of state resources is prohibited according to the Liberia electoral law. However, the Carter mission says it continues to receive complaints about the misuse of state resources by the ruling party and incumbents. “In the context of elections, state resources include not only government vehicles and fuel, as well as public space, but also public office. According to good international practice, administrative officials should not use their office to support or show favor to a particular political party.”
Several lawmakers here this year use the grounds of the Capitol Building to endorse the ruling party standard bearer Joseph Boakai’s presidential bid. Carter Center observers in their report said they have received allegations of superintendents and other local administration officials openly supporting the ruling party in Margibi, Nimba, and Lofa).
“Two local administration officials for Margibi County told the Center’s observers that they felt pressure to do so as well. Chiefs in Grand Bassa and Grand Cape Mount candidly informed the Center’s observers that they are supporting the vice president and urging their communities to do the same.”