The Bill titled “Democracy Sustenance Bill” recently passed by the House of Representatives, is left behind by the recessing Liberian Senate for concurrence upon its return in next January.
The crafters and ‘hand full of supporters’ of the bill from the ruling Unity Party, Congress for Democratic Change and National Union for democratic Progress continue to argue, as also expressed in the bill, that such instrument will appropriate US$2.5M for political parties rating ten to hundred percent in general and presidential elections in Liberia.
I do not intend to delve into the bill, but the issue of ‘sustaining democracy’ and its essence considering existing socio-economic factors in our country. Let it be made emphatically clear that the idea of legislating the idea of sustaining democracy in Liberia may be ‘excellent’, but untimely, un-holistic and selfish.
What our brothers and sisters in the House of Representatives and the UP, CDC and NUDP knowingly refused to accept was the fact that ‘democracy sustenance’ incorporates all actors of the concept and not only political parties as expressed in the bill. In sustaining democracy, the issues of civil society groupings to include right organizations and the media must be addressed also. It would be very foolhardy for any politically upright person to suggest that democracy can only be sustained by ensuring public funding for political parties-it doesn’t work without the inclusion of the media, right groups, etc., etc.
Moreover, considering our country’s discouraging socio-economic situation now resulting to abject poverty all around the place, it would be a complete political carelessness on the part of the Government of Liberia to direct public money at the moment toward funding political parties under the guise of sustaining democracy.
Even though crafters and supporters of this bill, including most members of the House of Representatives may be deliberately ignoring the high poverty rate across the country, probably on the basis of self-centerness, the President of Liberia, who is always blamed for the mess created by others in the administration, must muster the courage to understand that there are more socio-economic issues to address that government’s financial sponsorship of political parties at this time.
Spending US$15M on political parties for six years amidst the poor facilities in our public school system, health sector, etc., etc, may just be an attempt by President Sirleaf to intentionally keep the people of Liberia in continuous abject poverty.
Liberian political parties are not institutionalized-and that’s the fact. It is no secret to us all in Liberia, including the President, that political parties whose activities are only Monrovia-based, except during elections, are built either around an individual or a very few individuals with cash influences. Those involved in this ongoing advocacy for public funding to political parties may just be venturing into such for the personal benefits to be accrued following the Senate’s concurrence and President’s Constitutional acknowledgement.
Until our political parties can undergo internal structural and administrative transformation wherein they would be seen and considered as political institutions, Liberia is still unprepared for the so-called ‘democracy sustenance’.
Furthermore, we must be sincere to admit that in Liberia what we refer to as democracy is still emerging and not mature to warrant such support. A counter-argument to the foregoing may finger-point at the United States, South Africa and a few others as democracies sustained through public funding; of course there should be argument because of the years these countries took to institutionalize their political parties and civil society groupings, including the media and right organizations. But for us, our democracy is ‘impatiently growing’ and has not reached the stage of South Africa or the United States.
Let it not be misconstrued that the Democracy Sustenance Bill to publicly fund Liberian political parties is not necessary. It is indeed necessary and very important, but not timely, un-holistic and selfish-that is the argument.