In politics, power is inherent in the people through the ballot box to effect regime change when they believed that their expectations as contained in campaign manifestos are not actualized.
From most of the radios talk shows, newspaper commentaries or column regarding how people feel or think about the government, it is easy to infer the desperation for regime change come 2017 general elections. Arguably, this has always been the case with contemporary African politics since post-independence. Added to this, regime changes in Africa have always focused on the head of the government (President, Prime Minister or Head of the State).
Of course, it is rational to focus regime change on the head of the government as far as leadership is concerned. However, from the system of government as in the case of check and balance practiced by many African Countries including Liberia, it worth arguing that in order for a regime change to make a significant difference as captured in campaign manifestos, those wanting such change should also start thinking about how to ensure a “Robust Parliament or National Legislature” that also has the constitutional mantle for driving significance difference.
From the Liberian context that may also apply to Africa, it can be argued that most people look at regime change when a new president is being elected according to the election laws. In other words, regime change is defined as changing the President through the ballot box who is popularly blamed for the failure. A regime change comes with a political slogan. For example, the National Patriotic Party original slogan was “Above all else, is the People” the Unity Party original slogan “One Nation, One People, With Liberty and Justice for All”. During the 2011 election, another slogan was adopted by the UP “Da my Area”.
What is probably unknown to politiciansthat coined such slogans is the fact that it is by the same slogans the report card or achievements of that ruling party is evaluated that provides the basis for the people desperation for regime change through the ballot box. In other words, the people look forward for a regime change due to their interpretation of the gaps between expectations and slogans. It is on this basis people think or convinced that changing the regime will a make significant difference. Of course it is the essence or rationale behind for a regime change that no reasonable person dare refute.
Significant difference it is about the aspirations of the people derived from the kind of appeasing slogans and manifestos that influenced the voting behavior. For example, if a political party slogan implicitly convey or has the under tone for poverty reduction, mass employment for the youths etc., it will influence the aspirations of the people and as such hold the regime accountable as far as social contract is concerned arguably.
As mentioned earlier, the role of our National legislature as per their constitutional mandate is critical to making significance difference as far as regime change is concerned. For this to happen, an adoption of a robust posture coupled with its realm of authority in the check and balance system is imperative or vital.
Being robust as law makers suggest more than being vocal on national issues likely to affect the livelihood of its people. It is not to vacillate over issues conspicuously impractical. It is not only an opposition posture. It is a collective posture that says “No” or “Ye” when it is necessary as per the aspirations or best interests of the people they represent. It is the complete opposite to what the Liberian people popularly called “Rubber Stamp Law Makers” that implies always controlled and manipulated by the Executive Branch of government.
Being robust as law makers is implicitly sanctioned by the Constitution of Liberia. Take for instance; the Senate, along with the House, must approve any treaties or other international agreements signed by the president. This also applied to concession agreements as well. Should the president veto any bill passed by the House and the Senate, the veto may be overturned by a vote of two-thirds of the members in each chamber. The Constitution also grants the Senate several exclusive powers to check the actions of the executive branch. Under Article 54, the president’s appointments of ministers, judges, county officials, military officers and other officers must be confirmed by the Senate. To prove the robustness of our national legislature as it relates to making significance difference, ponder about the unanimous decision of the national legislature rejection of the president request for emergency power to make decisions that would have trampled on the rights of Liberians in an effort to fight the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
With this inherent robust power, why focus regime change only on the President. Assuming that president signs concession agreement that after scrutinizing proves contrary to the interest of the people, it must not be criticized by opposition as usual. A collective robust effort can turn the table around in the interest of the people. Moreover, by law, our national legislature has the power to improve the living condition of the people regardless of the wishes of the president. Take for example the case of Burkina Faso’s interim lawmakers’ unanimous decision to reduce their salary by half (50%) so as to step up the salaries of Civil servants early part of 2015 following local unions and rights groups complained that $3,000 per month salary was too high for one of the poorest nations on earth. This robust action did not seek the consent of the interim president.
Within the realm of our national legislature power, Senator Oscar Cooper similarly proposed for 20% reduction in the benefits of lawmakers in the country for the Ministries of Health and Education to attend to pressing priorities on grounds that the US$ 38 million allotment to the legislature was purely unfair. Even though his colleagues considered his proposal an embarrassment and refused to support the proposal, Senator Cooper despite scaring him suspensions threats has called for 20% deduction monthly form his benefits to tackle pressing priorities in Education and Health for his constituent. Again, the Senator did not seek the consent of the president or his political leader before attempting to make a significance difference.
In summation, the desperation for regime change will make significant difference if the focus is not only on the president but more importantly exerting positive pressures on our law makers to utilize their robust power inherent in the constitution of Liberia for the best interest of the people of Liberia.
By Ambrues M. Nebo