Monrovia - About 10 months from now, the October general and presidential elections will be held.
Arguably, it will be the most keenly contested presidential election in the history of Liberia.
Different political parties, politicians and activists have given several reasons why the outcome of these elections, the presidential elections especially, will determine the future of Liberia.
Thus, all cards are on the table and the world is eagerly awaiting the winner of the forthcoming presidential elections.
In short, all is at stake, including battle for popularity on social media.
A visible advantage of the dire nature of the general election is the “sophisticated” media tools that are being used to persuade and manipulate the voting public about making a choice for an aspirant cum candidate.
However, the most surprising of these tools used is the Social Media is Facebook.
In fact, the 2017 general elections will write itself in history as the year Liberians politicians knew the latest social platforms.
But the usage of the social media in campaigning for votes is not a new thing globally.
In fact several countries have displayed the importance of social media platforms in determining who wins or loses an election.
The case of US President elect, Donald Trump’s usage of the social media platforms like Facebook and twitter to outstandingly win the US 2016 presidential election comes ready to mind.
Another recent example on the growing importance of the social media is the Indian 2014 presidential elections where the elected president was months before election declared the Facebook and Twitter President.
A regular contributor to the “Costa Show” Facebook, C. Tarwoe Wanlonfah expressed concern about the prospect of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), which Senator George Weah chairs as its standard bearer.
“Good afternoon fellow Liberians, ï am taking this opportunity on this platform at this time to let you know that the So-called Coalition that are made of LPDP, CDC and NPP Will not get its aim,” Wanlonfah posted.
Another blogger, Fafinee Kamara wrote in the Darius Dillion Facebook, wondering:
“I haven't seen people very brave destroying their country equal to Liberians. What hate in your hearts that you will choose Weah over Mr. Urey?
Can't you see their leadership differences? Urey represents a real commanding in chief.
Weah represents Kru Town mehn. Pls [please] vote with logic I beg. Doe wasn't educated but was street smart. So don't based on that and keep glorifying Weah,” argues Kamara.
The social media platforms are being extensively used and this will continue even untill the D-day - where social media platforms have been proved to curtail rigging of results.
Audience Reach and Campaigning
The amazing advantage the various social media platforms have over the traditional means is the certainty of reach. A single tweet or status update has the capability of reaching thousands of people at the same time at cheaper costs.
Though, it does not appear that Liberian politicians seem to worry about the cost as they know they can recoup their “investment” once they get into power.
With approximately over one million internet users in Liberia, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the most popular social media platforms.
With over several million users, Facebook has the attention of many Liberian youths and the social media has been used by both political parties in Liberia through the use of sponsored stories and fan pages promotion.
With more Liberians on Facebook than on twitter, it does not however seem that political parties are largely interested in winning the Facebook war.
However, what Facebook and to some extent WhatsApp, another social media platform, have been used for is “Accusations Bashing”.
This is largely made possible by a new style of recruiting volunteers similar to that of the Trump Campaign team.
Several websites have been developed to amass volunteers for political parties.
These volunteers have helped in spreading Facebook status updates, and WhatsApp to fuel propaganda, spread manifestos and refute accusations of the opposing party.
As Liberians get ready in October to decide who rules them for the next six years, it is no gainsaying that the social media platforms will help to prevent rigging and falsifications of results. If events at some of the 2014 senatorial elections in Liberia are to go by, real time updates on Facebook and Twitter of polling units’ results will make a free and fair election in Liberia possible.
The October elections will determine if the voices of Liberians on Social media truly translates to the opinions of Liberians on national issues.
If this is true, then the political parties playing catch up in the social media battle has a lot of worries to attend to.