Are Liberian political parties really credible? Are they strong institutionally and do they represent their members’ interest? These are the questions many contemporary politicians and pundits asked when they think of informal political institutions in Liberia.
From the formation of the Liberian state, with the founding of Liberia’s first two political parties, the True Liberian or Pro-Administration Party and the Whig or Anti-Administration Party, to 1869 when the powerful and grand old True Wing Party (TWP) was founded in Clay-Ashland, which ruled for more than a century and created a one party elitist state, entrenched corruption, endorsed system of forced labour, marginalized indigenous Liberians, clampdown on political opposition, plundered the nation’s resources which led to an underdeveloped nation, despite an economic boom from 1950 to 1960 and paved a way for a brutal 14-year civil conflict; pundits think that political parties are not credible in Liberia.
The few group of people who are considered founders of a political party in Liberia, see the party as their personal property; with the people whom they claimed to represent not having a say in the administration of the party and not having a space to channel their issues and plights. As a result of these, members and sympathizers of those parties do not pay their dues, which also lead to few wealthy and influential people running that political institution. The founders of political parties in Liberia even scam on some of their parties’ members who opt to serve in key leadership position at the level of the party or the state. As a result of the scam, some party members shift their loyalty and alliance to another political party, foment party violence which undermines the credibility of the party.
Turning to some parties and coalitions, like the now fractured National Democratic Coalition (NDC), the divided Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD) and the almost dead Liberia Unification Party (LUP); all of these coalitions and parties are nursing injuries from the actions of some officials and members of their respective parties and coalitions. These parties and coalitions are divided because of failed party policies, disagreement and disenchantment amongst officials and partisans; which also bring bigger question about these parties and coalitions’ credibility.
For the young and fractured National Democratic Coalition, they are facing their worst political dilemma of the time, after two of their professed big parties which were part of the coalition, the National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) withdrew their support from the coalition barely two months to the holding of national elections, and worst of all their most vocal and critical Chairman, Lewis Brown (of NPP) is contesting as an independent candidate for a senatorial position in Montserrado County, while enjoying the political backing of the incumbent Unity Party .
For the Alliance of Peace and Democracy, some of their top officials in the name and spirit of the alliance have pledged their unflinching support to the re-election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; causing their Former Standard Bearer, Togba Nah Tipoteh to form a party which was denied accreditation by the National Elections Commission of Liberia, but he managed to squeezed himself in a party known as the Freedom Alliance Party of Liberia (FAPL).
Similar situation went for the Liberia Unification Party (LUP). Today, this party is disintegrated. Some officials and members of the party supported and signed to the LAP (Liberia Action Party), LUP and UP Merger, thereby forming a new Unity Party; while other officials and members have pledged their die-hard support to the election of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party.
Twittering some parties’ primaries in Liberia, starting with the New Unity Party, some of their members who had the ambition to represent their constituencies on the party’s ticket felt that they were cheated in the primary and began to label the party as a corrupt party. One of the party’s newest members who shifted from his vote rich Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) to the Unity Party (UP), Rep. Kettekumeh E. Murray of District #3, was heard on a popular talk show after the Unity party primary that “there is a corruption virus within the Unity Party”. Some sitting lawmakers like Elizabeth Williams of Rivercess County and Samuel Bondo (who shifted from the Liberty Party) of Bong County, also lost in the party’s primary and discredited the results of the primary in their respective constituencies.
Turning to the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), a political party described by its many sympathizers and partisans as the largest grass root political movement ever in the history of our nation was also found in another scamming game on its members. Representative Regina Sokan Teah incumbent lawmaker, of Montserrado County, District #10; could never be silent on the matters after losing in her party’s primary and vented out her frustration that she was a “victim of nasty and dirty politicking”. This, among other things prompted angry CDCians to besiege the party leaders and brutalized some officials and members of their party. Joseph Todd, Former Coordinator of CDC District #5, Montserrado County was also a victim of dirty politics and today he is contesting for District #6 seat in Montserrado County as an independent candidate after it was alleged that the CDC Vice Standard Bearer unilaterally petitioned and endorsed his girl friend to contest in that district.
Now, to the Liberty Party (LP), the party that has been described and labelled as the most vocal and worst critic of the Sirleaf’s administration was also found in primary brouhaha. When its incumbent lawmakers in Grand Bassa County narrowly lost the party primary. One of the losers, Rep. Gabriel B. Smith (District #4) was heard on a local radio station that he was going to consult his supporters, whether he is going to contest or not. Which of these supporters is he going to consult before contesting? Does this representative have different supporters from that of his party’s supporters and sympathizers? These are questions to ponder, as members and officials of the party are gradually losing confidence in their political institution that is to serve as a medium for representing them. Today, Gabriel Smith is contesting as an independent candidate for District #3, Grand Bassa County.
With the above dramatic and comical political scenarios, does it show any level of credibility amongst political parties in Liberia? Some of these parties are seen as model parties in Liberia, desperate to clamp on to state power. But their own internal wrangling and policies are allowing their members to be disenchanted with their system of governance, thereby undermining their credibility. They are no longer seen as the voice of the voiceless in the eyes of angry partisans and sympathizers; thereby allowing them to find alternative political institution which will represent their interest.
For some, they think that political parties should build factories and companies in order to provide employment for them. Their thoughts are faulty. Political leaders and their parties have no legal obligation to build factories and provide jobs for their people, while in the opposition. But they have the moral responsibility to serve as a vehicle for change, by x-raying and dissecting failed government policies and coming up with alternative policy that will improve the lives of the ordinary citizens, which the citizens will look at and vote them to state power.
In America, when the United States of America was in political and economic monstrosities in 2008 as a result of failed policies by the Bush Administration coupled with the abuse and waste of US taxpayers’ money financing two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Democratic Party and Barack Obama simply x-rayed those failed policies and came up with an alternative policy to bring about change in the United States. Obama and his party policies highlighted the total restoration of the failed US economy which was in its recessionary period; they came up with an alternative to withdraw US combat forces from Afghanistan and Iraq. The electorates in the US heeded Obama’s proposed policies and elected him. To some extent, those alternative policies by Obama and his party are yielding some results.
Turning to the United Kingdom of Great Britain, David Cameron and his Conservative Party in 2009 and early 2010 proposed to the British people their idea of “building a big society”, which will devolve power, empower local communities and give power back to the ordinary British people. Though elected on a coalition ticket (with the Liberal Democrats) and almost a year in office, the Conservative Party is striving to make some gains.
Back to Liberia, in 2005, the Unity Party and Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf presented a platform to the Liberian people in order to reduce poverty, combat corruption and to provide good governance after nearly 14 years of carnage and failed governance of the Liberian state. The Liberian people saw Madam Sirleaf’s platform as a means of improving their livelihood and restoring hope to the impoverished people. That was why she was elected to state power.
With the outrageous development emanating from political parties in Liberia, contemporary political parties should see themselves as the representatives of their peoples’ aspirations. Sadly, disgraceful practices are still practiced by 21st century political parties in Liberia; which make most pundits to wonder whether these parties are well structured and whether they are run by a select few group of persons or they are merely run by an individual; thereby making political commentators to conclude that political parties in Liberia are not well structured and credible.
Alvin W. Yelloway