Liberia: The Opposition Political Parties’ Brawl Could Limit their Chances of Winning the By-elections
MONROVIA – Citizens residing in Nimba, Bong, Grand Gedeh and Bomi Counties would be going to the polls today to elect new district representatives to fill the void left the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections – an election that gave the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) the occasion to send a forewarning to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
However, this forewarning that came through the CPP’s massive victory in that election seems to have lost its essence amid in-house bickering within the opposition conglomeration. These by-elections might serve as a shakeup for the opposition community ahead of the 2023 general and presidential elections should they fail to maintain the dominance attained in the 2020 special elections.
The 2020 Dominance
It is no doubt that the CPP – freshly minted at the time, was a heavy weight to reckon with in the Special Senatorial Elections. This was mainly because of the unity that bonded the four opposition political parties that enabled them to channel a well-coordinated campaign message that resonated with the vast majority of Liberians. In that election, not only did the opposition community stood as one, but they were able to conduct themselves in a manner and provide a message that the Liberian people could hold on to with the hope of making a difference in the leadership of the country and that was a stern warning to the George Weah-led administration.
In that election, the CPP won six of the 15 seats while the ruling CDC could only get hold of three. The CPP took hold of Montserrado County, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Bong, Grand Bassa, and Rivergee Counties. The margins in these victories were astounding.
What was even more breathtaking for the ruling party is the level of defeat they suffered in Montserrado County – their stronghold – with Senator Abraham Darius Dillon finishing up with 61.3 percent of the votes cast. Before Senator Dillon, the Montserrado senatorial seat was occupied by President Weah before he ascended to the presidency. It was Sen. Dillon’s second time winning seat.
His victory in 2020 Special Senatorial Election could be attributed to the woven support provided him by the conglomeration of the Alternative National Congress, his own Liberty Party, the All Liberian Party and the Unity Party.
Things Began to Go Wrong
Unarguably, the formidability that once made the CPP a force to reckon with has wear off – in quite a short space of time. While the leaders of the CPP continue to malign one another, their respective supporters are also at each other’s throat, throwing jabs at each other on social media. This has caused a division in the support base of the CPP.
Quite recently, the Chairman of the CPP, Amb. Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party told the VOA that his counterpart, Mr. Alexander Cummings of the ANC, must own up to tampering of the CPP’s Framework Document – an accusation that Cummings has continuously denied vehemently and challenged his colleagues in the leadership to prove.
In retaliation to his Amb. Boakai’s recent VOA and BBC interview, the ANC noted that the alleged altering of the Framework Document “a conspiratorial smokescreen which they [UP, LP and ALP] believe by repeating long enough, the falsehood will somehow become truthful.”
The ANC continued in a statement: “The stubborn truth remains that the amended version of the Framework Agreement, presented by the lawyers and approved by the parties, is materially, provisionally and substantially the same as the one filed with the National Elections Commission. And this is a fact!
“Therefore, it is disingenuous for Ambassador Boakai to be calling for reconciliation, and at the same time, continue as his predecessor did, to throw around accusations he has reasons to know are patently false, as he and his co-conspirators have tried and failed to prove otherwise.”
The CPP’s Problem – Cummings’ View
While the standard-bearer of the ANC stands accused of dubiously tampering with their governing document, he has also stated that the pursue of “their personal ambitions through means other than the democratic primaries agreed to by all the parties” as the real problem hurting the CPP.
He stated: “Ambassador Boakai knows he will lose to the Candidate of REAL CHANGE, Mr. Alexander Cummings, in a CPP Democratic Primary as provided for in the Framework Agreement. As a result, he (Boakai) is conspiring with others to circumvent the holding of democratic primaries even at the expense of undermining the unity of the CPP, including beclouding it with public doubts, and risking the desire of the Liberian people to make President Weah a one-term President. This is without honor and shameful to the core.
“Two facts are not lost on the Liberian people. The first is that President Weah is a total failure. He is incompetent and misleading Liberia into backwardness, and Liberians into worsening economic conditions. The second fact is that there is only one REAL CHANGE candidate with the pedigree, track record and clean hands to turn things around for the better. That candidate is Mr. Alexander B. Cummings who is unencumbered by corruption and Liberia’s history of misrule.”
Irrespective of how Mr. Cummings feel about Mr. Boakai’sparticipation in the CPP primary process, the former Vice President and stand bearer of the Unity Party remains firm that Mr. Cummings will not have any free ride in the presidential election, urging him to submit to the primary process.
“It’s not going to be a free ride; it’s a decision that Liberians could embrace. So it’s not stepping aside; it’s deciding who is best suited.Party unity does not require someone just waive his rights. We have a process and we will follow that process”.
“I am going through the process; we have the rules set in that document. So, it’s not something that you are going to say step aside because, we have processes that we have to follow and Liberians are looking forward to who is best suited. The only person who can defeat George Weah is Joe Boakai,” Amb. Boakai said in a recent BBC Focus on Africa interview.
There are about nine candidates are contesting for the representative seat for electoral District 1 in Bomi County.
They include: Armah Vanah Boakai (Independent ), Charles S. Brown of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), John D. Karmo of Liberian National Union (LINU), Finda Gborie Lansanah (independent), and Edwin Folley McGill (independent).
Others are: Harry Buster Sando, Sr (Independent), Roosevelt Arvin Tulay, Sr of People’s Unification Party (PUP), J. Kpakpa Obediah Varney of Liberia Restoration Party (LRP), She Maxwell Vincent of Liberian People’s Party (LPP).
Though the field appears crowded, Varney of the LRP stands a better chance of capturing vast majority of the votes expected to be cast.
He contested the 2017 elections held in the county, coming second to Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe.
Out of the six candidates who contested, Mr. Varney accumulated 1868 votes or 11.76% of the total of 15,887 valid votes cast, while his victor, Senator Snowe got 10,711 or 67.42%.
Despite being defeated massively, Varney attempted to contest the senatorial election in 2020, but later backed off for the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Alex Tyler to contest on the ticket of the CDC.
During that election, he served as a campaign manager for Tyler who was massively flogged by Senator Snowe . Senator Snowe got 16, 476 or 53.97% of the total valid votes of 30,526 cast, while Mr. Tyler accumulated 8,834 votes.
Varney has been winning the minds and support of mostly the youths and elderly folks within the district as a result of his consistent show of love, support, contributions and commitment to them.
About 12 candidates are vying for the Representative slot of electoral district # 2 in Bong.
They include: Joe K. Better of Movement for One Liberia (MOL), Joshua D. K. Better of Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) biological brothers in the race, Lawunkono Jefferson Blackie of Rainbow Alliance (RA), and Edward Emmanuel Gboe (Independent).
Others are: James M. Kolleh of People’s Unification Party (PUP) and Jerry Kerkulah Kollie (Independent), James F. Mulbah (Independent) and Melvin K. Salvage of Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
The rest are: James Karpee Saybay of Liberia Restoration Party (LRP) and Matthew Siakor, Jr of Liberian National Union (LINU), James Mulbah Tartor of Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and Passewe Yarkpawolo, Jr. (Independent).
Edward Emmanuel Gboe appears to be the favorite among all of the candidates contesting for the coveted post in Bong. He is being profoundly supported by Deputy Speaker Prince Moye, who previously held the Representative position.
In 2017, Gboe contested the representative race and came second to CDC candidate Josiah Marvin Cole. He got 3,888 votes or 15.29%, while Representative Cole amassed 5,899 or 23.2% out of a total of 15 candidates who participated in the process.
Though there exist a tight race between Gboe and the CDC candidate Melvin K. Salvage, the added advantage remains the overwhelming support being shown by Deputy Speaker Moye towards the election of Gboe.
About six candidates have been qualified to contest the representative seat for electoral district # 1 Grand Gedeh County.
They include: Ansu Dukuly of Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Erol Madison Wion of Liberia Restoration Party (LRP) and Fester Jarbah Saydee of People’s Unification Party (PUP).
Others are Seward Sohn of the Liberian National Union (LINU), Jeremiah Garwo Sokan, Sr. of Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and George Nyan Yah of Rainbow Alliance (RA).
Sokan remains the favorite to win the by-election. He is regarded for immensely contributing towards youth and women empowerment, through microloan and vocational skills opportunities.
He has been consistently engaged into making contributions, through the spilling of cash, to programs and ventures intended to lift young people out of poverty. He’s being supported by Senator Zoe Pennue, who is the immediate past representative of the district.
Six candidates have also been cleared by the NEC to contest the representative by-election in Nimba.
They are: Samuel Brown, Sr (Independent), Zarwolo Larkpoh Dahn of Liberia Restoration Party (LRP), and Abigail B. L. Freeman of Movement for One Liberia (MOL).
Others are: Francis Nya Maweah of Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), Lawrence Sua of Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and Larry Lombaye Teah, Sr. of United People’s Party ( UPP)
The race in Nimba appears to be a two-horse race between Samuel Brown and Lawrence Sua respectively.
The pair contested for similar seat during the 2017 general and presidential elections.
Brown came second with 5,041 or 23.69%, while Sua came third place with 2,738 or 12.87% behind the victor Senator Jeremiah Koung who obtained 11,168 or 52.87% of the total number of 11,458 valid votes cast.