According to the New Dawn newspaper (New Dawn, September 25, 2015), “the National Elections Commission (NEC) has certificated two new registered political parties in Liberia . . . bring to twenty, the total number of registered political parties in Liberia”.
In a recent article (August 23, 2012) in response to a bill passed by the Legislature authorizing public funding of political parties, we observed that “presently, there are some 20-plus political parties (and counting, in 2012) in the country of less than 4 million people and 16 major, ethnic/tribal groups.
As compared to other countries, particularly, the United States, from which we borrowed, almost, all of our laws, and upon which, almost, all of our institutions and activities, socio-political and economic, are modeled, there are only two lawfully-recognized, national political parties, with a population of some 300 million, ours is a joke”.
All of us, human beings, in society, want the same things in life – We want freedom, justice, equality of treatment, access to healthcare, education, crime-free environment, healthy and protected family, in prosperity and happiness etc., etc., irrespective of location, socio-economic class, culture, beliefs and values.
The critical argument is how to achieve these Goals:
a) How society should be organized.
b) Methods:The most appropriate way to achieve these goals, found in Political ideologies.
This, then, is where a government of political parties come in, the basic motivation (ideology, philosophy) for founding and establishment of which is a function of or depends upon the socio-cultural beliefs and values of a given society. Universally, research shows that the major political party ideology or philosophy arising from or based on such socio-cultural beliefs and valuesare (alphabetically)Anarchism, communism, Conservatism, Liberalism and Socialism – five (5) in all, as opposed to 20-plus.
An ideology is a set or collection of ideas which, typically, contains certain ideas on what it considers to be the best form of government(democracy, autocracy, etc.), and the best economic system(capitalism, socialism, etc.).Ideologies also identify themselves by their position on the political spectrum (such as the left, center orright), though this is very often controversial. Finally, ideologies can be distinguished from political strategies(populism)and from single issues that a party may be built around opposition to the Christian Principles argumentor dual citizenship in Liberia).
Twenty-Plus Political Parties, and counting
But,with the multiplicity or proliferation of political parties organized and managed along ethnic/tribal lines, not in accordance with traditional convention of “shared beliefs”, philosophy, policy or ideology,shows not only that we, Liberians, are still buried, deeply,inour traditional ethnic/tribal bigotry – fear,suspicion, envy, jealousy, superstition, prejudice, segregation/discrimination, and antagonism bordering on hatred – a condition exacerbated by the recent tragedy and nightmare of the civil war, but also, that we are light years away from the modern Global Village of instant travel, people/population movement, socio-cultural mix, in flux and diversity, new life-styles, education, training and experience, grounded on facts, evidence, truth, love and care for one another.No wonder, national reconciliation and unity have eluded our nationperennially since the end of armed hostilities.
Let us be mindful that Liberians, no longer, live in perceived distant, far apart towns and villages with no conception oftime and space, deeply beholden to our tradition ofthe divisive, ethnic/tribal war-making. Indeed, there Liberians are, now, found in every country, on every continent beyond the “sea” that our parents, grandparents considered to be “without end”. Also, there are white, yellow and red men and women in our towns and villages eating palm butter & rice, fufu& soup, GB, torborgee and drinking palm wine with the old folks. Yes, some are, even, married to our black men and women. Time and ways of doing things have changed dramatically, it is time for us to change!!
In the light of the foregoing conditions, it is extremely necessary that our initial action be to limit, by law, the number of political parties in Liberia through the following:
1. Population of the nation as the major determinant of the number of political parties and threshold of some percentage of national vote.
2. Political beliefs, philosophy or Ideology
b) Center /Independent, mildly conservative, mildly liberal/progressive
This approach will encourage political party membership to be based on “shared beliefs” or political philosophy, as much as possible, rather than on ethnic/tribal affinity. While political candidate/party funding offers an excellent, “even playing field” to “sustain democracy”, it is also another opportunity for corruption, both within the given political candidate/party and the National Election Commission (NEC).
It has been shown that some tribal “politicians” organize their tribe’s political parties, simply, to be“standard bearers” and noticed, practices which can be used to seek appointments from the winning, presidential candidate after the election, knowing that they have no chance of being elected as president in the first place. Now, with this funding bill, there could be much more proliferation of tribal or just any political parties, if the nation’s population consideration, a threshold limit and political philosophy requirements, as indicated, are not required.
Regarding the NEC and the electoral process –laws, demarcation of constituencies, registration of political parties and voters, campaigns by the political parties, party finances/financing and oversight, vote-counting, declaration of results and adjudication of disputes in Liberia, as we have experienced – have not been free, fair, transparent, credible or legitimate. Indeed, the electoral process is seen by the Liberian people as being manipulated and controlled by ruling, political parties.
The recent, unusual abandonment of his position as chairman of the Nation’s National Elections Commission and the un-announced departure out of the country by the Honorable Chairman of the NEC, while in the midst of several allegations of electoral fraud, is a critical, painfully-troubling case in point.
The current Chairman of the NEC is accused by a leading Chairman of a Political Party of being citizen of a foreign countryand that he (the NEC Chair) permitted other foreigners to register and campaign as candidates for the National Legislature. Some are now serving as senators in violation of Article 30 of the Constitution.