Do We Need Primaries Or Some Sort Of Presidential Elimination Process?

By Isaac Vah Tukpah, Jr.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 10, 2004

The proliferation of "political parties" in Liberia can only be credited to the blind greed and ambition of the so called "standard bearers/party chairmen" of the various parties and their cohorts. Over time, we may have had a few parties that stood the test of time and probably are capable of passing the litmus test of a true political party.

However, most of the political parties formed seem to be either on the basis of tribalism, a single individual’s desire to be the president of Liberia, or a single individual who feels he/she has significant influence over a sub-section of the population and can sell the votes of those individuals of that sub-section at election time.

It would be an interesting exercise to find out what the true political & social ideologies of these various Liberian political parties (or should I say political individuals) are and I predict that one would be hard pressed to find any significant distinction or differentiation. Do they stand for an equal allocation of resources to the Liberian people? How do they propose to narrow the opportunity chasm? What do they consider as inalienable rights and what are considered privileges (education, health, etc.)? Do they stand for low taxes or increased taxes, proportional taxation, etc.? Minimized government or big government? Do they support the current centralized government structure or are decentralization and federalization viable options? Do they support big business and monopolies, do they support open competition with limited trade restrictions, or do they support a free-market economy? Do they advocate liberal policies with significant government intervention and public programs that seek the welfare of the poor majority?

Where do they stand on the divisive issues such as: reallocation of land, reconciliation, war crimes tribunal, recovery of stolen funds by former government officials, true separation of Church (religion) and state, etc.? Where do they stand on human rights issues and what has been their history of advocating human rights & justice? What is their position on labor and the formation of unions in Liberia to protect workers? Do they support a minimum wage for laborers? What kind of foreign policy do they advocate, one of "say what the US/UN says" or one based on a true understanding and analysis of global issues? What are their roadmaps for economic recovery, especially the creation of jobs to reduce the dire employment numbers? Do they advocate a democratic government of inclusion and accountability or will the evils of nepotism and favoritism be their guiding principles? The answers to these and many other questions out there are what the political parties need to integrate into their platform and ensure that their standard bearers, party chairmen, and members of significance can ably articulate their positions.

The above introduction brings me to the proposition I would like to make to the career Liberian politicians and presidential aspirants. It is now time that we look to accentuate our political similarities, form binding coalitions, and create a natural process of candidate elimination on the road to October 2005. Let us endeavor to move away from the practice of everyone having to be chief. We have to sacrifice our egos and acknowledge those who are more capable and more qualified than we are and begin to associate ourselves or form coalitions with those of like minds, values, attitudes, and commitment regardless of ethnicity or economic/social status. Yes, this proposal will be tough for some of those politicians who are used to being souped up by their followers but the reality of the matter is, being the big fish in the small pond is not doing justice for Liberia. Cream rises to the top, thus if you are qualified, have the personality, the leadership ability, the vision, the conviction of your vision, and the ability to articulate your position, combining or integrating with similar or like-minded political organizations will only enhance your political ambition, not hinder it.

Adopting the above proposition will enable the Liberian people to develop some level of intimacy with the viable candidates in a timely fashion and analytically differentiate between candidates so that their decisions are not necessarily based on who can provide "one bag of rice" prior to election but who can implement policies and programs that will consistently put "rice and soup" on the tables of the majority. As we countdown to elections (only 576 days from October 1, 2005), it is important that the potential candidates begin to speak to the issues so that we can understand what their perspectives, convictions, hopes, and aspirations are and whether their past records and abilities substantiates the realization of what they are proposing to the Liberian people. It is also important that every Liberian recognize the right to exercise their political franchise. Everyone cannot be a politician but every citizen has a political responsibility to their country to be aware of the issues and to make decisions (vote) in the best interest of their country and not their specific situation.