Embracing Peaceful Election and Choosing the Right Candidates in Liberia

By Ambulai Jorkey Johnson
Abdul Kawiu

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 25, 2017


Following 14 years of civil unrest, Liberia appreciated a fragile peace from 2003 until its democratically-elected government took the wheels in January 2006. As a nation, we moved on and rose above our hurts despite our frustration and anger; we settled on the foundation of reconciliation to put Liberia's interest ahead of ours.
A peaceful election is essential to Liberia’s emerging democracy. Though it is obvious that elections and democracy are not the same in terms of principle, but elections continue to be a fundamental practice in any political space for participatory democratic governance.

We cannot have democracy without elections. Besides, elections abode in the heart of democracy and it should be taken very seriously to augment peace. The October presidential and legislative elections are an essential pedal for improving the lives of our people, modifying the economy, strengthening accountability and transparency in government. On top of that, a peaceful election in Liberia will avert electoral threats and violence.  

It is not strange that Liberia elections always exacerbate tensions among political surrogates and undecided voters. The youthful populations have become a leading force in electoral politics in Liberia. Young Liberians are encouraged to vigorously debate the issues during these elections, but should be civil in their approaches and avoid unnecessary tension that may lead to electoral violence. Even though we may be members of different parties; Liberia remains our common denominator.  
Recent political jamborees, social media exchanges, and talked shows have shown that youth are critical in bringing about social and political transformation in Liberia. The issues of heated political rhetoric and blackmailing have had commonplace in our political discourse instead of discussing platforms and their implementation. The inclusion of youth in political processes enhances POLITICAL STABILITY AND PEACE. However, heated political rhetoric and blackmailing have the propensity to encourage electoral violence and lead to political instability. It is our duty as responsible citizens (youth) to refrain from insults and personal attacks that lack validity, and concentrate our debate and exchanges on the differences in our respective platforms.

This year’s election reveals to be a very tight and open race. Tensions started to rise from last year as the elections approached. While other political parties started to use ethnic tactics (Congo and Country) to mobilize electoral support, and underpinning political divisions for their pursuit political power. Let our voices be heard through the ballot box by electing the right candidates based on sound platforms, honesty, and competence. Sentiments should not be the way forward in our democratic space. Our choice should be based on the candidates’ track record, their vision for the country, and their ability of bringing about transformative change in the lives of the Liberian people.

Like Liberia, most of Africa is undergoing political transition, and come January 2018, Liberia will be experiencing a democratic transition (the peaceful transfer of power from one president to another), something that has been unprecedented in modern Liberian political history. Political transition on the continent has been a major source of conflict and Liberia has had its fair share. At this crucial stage in our country’s history, we need to do all we can to consolidate our hard earned peace and promote our fledgling democracy, rather than engage in activities that will move us toward chaos again.

The National Elections Commission of Liberia has released the total of 1.9 million (1,903,229) registered voters that will elect presidential and legislative candidates from 22 political parties come October 10, 2017. Millions of Liberians will be marching in various queues to vote on October 10 to decide the fate of this great nation. PEACE and stability must be the main focus of our decisions in these elections because there is no progress without peace and stability.

Democracy has been further strengthened in Liberia due to an active role of activism, media engagement, and opposition political participation in the midst of political constraints. And civil society continues to play an essential oversight role to support democratic processes in maintaining our peace. As such, political participation by stakeholders has strengthened democracy in Liberia. October 10, 2017 Elections in Liberia has been considered as a key democratic election that is keenly followed by international observers and citizens.

Lesson Learn from Recent African Elections:
This is the time to be realistic in casting our votes as the expectations about our elections in the global society are high. Our African counterparts have been realistic in Radical changes of its political processes in Africa. They voted on platforms and contribution! Therefore, we can do the same by considering the below progressive path of democracy and improving on their mistakes (election threats and violence). Liberia deserves better and we should vote based on competency, achievable platform, Honesty and track record.

There are many reasons why Goodluck Jonathan lost the election to Gen Muhammadu Buhari. Though Goodluck tried to build a muscular defense in convincing the people of Nigeria on his reelection bid, he maneuvered to debate on the issues of the economy, Boko Haram and security, and it did not suffice because opposition political parties managed to unite under the All Progressives Congress (APC) to defeat the ruling establishment.

Unlike Nigeria, about 19 opposition parties are battling the ruling establishment for the presidency; each on its own.  Therefore, the ruling Unity Party stands a better chance of winning the pending election because of the opposition’s  refusal to merge forces and put out a united front to unseat the Unity Party.

Nana Akufo-Addo from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) was one of the strongest opposition parties who won the recent Ghanaian election against John Mahama (NDC). Mahama was defeated on many grounds. One of which needs to be carefully looked at is, political violence. It is evident that the NDC had the record of having violence in all 10 regions of Ghana during their own internal elections. Dejectedly, NDC defeat further extended due to their failure.

For Liberia, instead of opposition parties discussing their platforms as a means of convincing weary voters, they are now declaring themselves winner. This is sad for our democracy. Out of 22 political parties, we have ALP, UP, ANC, LP discussing their platforms and how these platforms will positively affect the lives of the Liberian people.

Yahya Jammeh is regarded as a long serving leader of The Gambia. On the contrary, he may have lost to Adama Barrow, an opposition leader due to complacency in discussing his platforms. His victory was assured by God according to him and further said “the biggest landslide in the history of the country" after casting his vote. Barrow, a former businessman and opposition leader who is currently serving as President of The Gambia was discussing his platform and capitalizing on the failures of Jammeh. President Barrow’s track records, competence and contributions to The Gambia as a business guru actually resonated with the people.

Liberians from all parts of the country are invited to take part in this new movement by embracing a peaceful election and vote wisely on October 10. We will be given the chance to help shape the direction of our country by excising our political franchise. Therefore, we should not be fed up with parties’ ideologies and platforms.

Many at times, people refer to the recent election of the above countries, but do not take into consideration the context of political struggle in those elections. Their tactics in unseating the ruling establishment are far different from Liberian politics. They were able to successfully frontline the debate and using political strategies in making their case to unseat the ruling Government.

In the case of Liberia, the political landscape is crowded with deceit and vindictiveness among political surrogates and the core issues are not discussed. Sadly, many voters still remain doubtful as to whom to be voted.  This is due to the issue or platform that is not fully discussed. Major opposition parties are escaping national discourse and leaving us in doubt that they have the country at heart. On which basis do you have the country at heart? What has been your contribution to the Nation? Okay, what is your platform should you be voted upon?

About the authors:
Ambulai Jorkey Johnson, is a blogger and Technical Researcher of The Research Consortium for Public Health, Energy and Environmental Development. He holds a Bachelor and Master degrees. He can be  reached at recopeed.liberia@gmail.com

Abdul Kawiu is a young Liberian writer and motivational speaker; he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Management with an emphasis in Economics from Stella Maris Polytechnic and a prospective Master candidate at the University of Liberia. He also served as guest speaker on the day of the African Child in Liberia (June 16, 2017). He can be reached at abdulkiawu10@gmail.com


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