A bill intended to “sustain democracy” is currently at the Liberian Senate for concurrence. The so-called “Democratic Sustenance Act Bill” was passed by the Plenary of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 with an overwhelming vote.
The bill, which first surfaced in the 52nd Legislature but “died a natural death”, resurfaced in the House of Representatives through Representative Acarous Gray of the Congress for Democratic Change or CDC. It seeks to appropriate US$2.5M annually to political parties obtaining ten to a hundred percent of the valid votes cast in general and President Elections in Liberia as a way of strengthening them.
“Any political party obtaining ten to nineteen percent of the total valid votes shall receive US$360,000.00; twenty to twenty percent US$450,000.00; thirty to thirty-nine percent US$675,000.00; forty to forty-nine US$625,000.00 and fifty to hundred percent US$1.25M,” according to the bill. Independent candidates, coalitions and alliances are all excluded from the proposed ’cash benefit’.
Initially on Tuesday, a reconsideration motion advanced by Lofa County Representative Eugene Fallah Kparkah on the need for consultations with constituents could not withstand the overwhelming desire of the House’s Plenary for passage. While there may be speculations within the corridors of the Senate Wing of the Capitol building that the so-called “Democratic Sustenance Bill” may have similar reception as it happened in the House, the Legislators must be very cautious in reaching a decision that may embarrass them with those who elected.
Unlike the House of Representatives which hastily acted in favor of the bill without first engaging those such national decision would affect (constituents), members of the honorable Liberian senate must used their annual vacation or agriculture break to solicit the opinions of their constituents before concurring with their counterparts in the House. As public opinions continue to descend on the bill, the Senators must exercise the highest degree of elderliness in their judgment.
While the Liberian political system may still immature and ill-prepared for such undertaking, ‘spoon-feeding’ political parties under the guise of strengthening democracy will further result to making them overly dependent on public funds, thereby weakening the ability to venture into fund-raising activities, including membership and other fees.
It is even disappointing for the leadership of the Unity Party to be the helm of the public relations campaign considering the fact it is the current ruling establishment with all of the national resources at its disposal as it has been in the case of the political parties such as the True Whig Party, National Democratic Party and National patriotic Party.
There should be no reason why the Unity Party should be involved with such political venture when it should campaign for the allotment of such funds to train more young Liberian medical doctors abroad in specialized areas; it must be pressing for the allotment of more money to educate and train young Liberians abroad in the areas of petroleum management and engineering, as well as telecommunication management and engineering or even mining engineering or geology so as to be remembered by the people of Liberia for avoiding the mistakes of the past.
Other than making political parties “lazy and corrupt” owing to the fact that they are building around an individual or a few individuals, US$2.5M annually could build, staff and equip more public schools around the country.
While crafters and advocates of the bill may be providing all of the justifications for its necessity and passage by the Liberian Legislature, let them not continue to harbor the belief that the people of Liberia, including their own partisans will continue to be carried away by such rhetorics and political gimmicks.
Since the House of Representatives failed to listen to the public outcry against the bill, the Liberian Senate must this time listen as members of the House of Elders and do the will of their people.