Liberia: High Stakes for the July 8, 2019 by-elections
The Council of Patriots (COP) mobilized thousands of people to demonstrate against the current state of affairs in the country. On many levels, the demonstration was a success not only because of the discipline of the marchers but also the reaction of the administration. This show of political maturity bodes well for the future of freedom of speech and assembly in Liberia.
By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé, [email protected], Contributing Writer
Now comes the time to evaluate the impact of the June 7, 2019 on the political process. The collaborating opposition parties (ALP, ANC, LP and UP) have put their weight behind two young candidates, Mr. A. Darius Dillon from LP running for the Senate and Ms. Telia Urey of ALP vying for the District 15 seat in the House for the upcoming by-elections in Montserrado County, the seat of the capital and considered as the fiefdom of President George Weah’s CDC. The governing CDC has fielded two candidates of its own, Mr. Abu Kamara for the House of Representatives and Ms. Paulita Wieh for the Senate.
A victory for the opposition candidates in the stronghold of CDC doubled by the incumbency will be a clear signal that June 7 was not a passing moment. It will show that the administration is losing hold of its primary constituents. This will call for a realignment of the governance process if CDC wants to stay mighty.
A victory of the CDC candidates will deal a serious blow to the collaborating opposition parties who put their weight behind COP and endorsed candidates Dillon and Urey. But were they to win; the parties could strengthen their collaboration in preparation for 2020 and 2923?
On the other hand, victory for the CDC will mean that the party still controls the votes in Montserrado. It will also indicate that June 7 did not go beyond a day of gathering of young people to sweat off their frustration. Finally, it will indicate that the collaboration of the four political parties is not yet oiled enough to beat the CDC. This will also call for regrouping for ALP, ANC, LP and UP.
July 8 will be therefore be a referendum on both the ruling and the opposition parties. One of them will have a bragging right. In the absence of reliable polling, these by-elections could be a barometer to measure the strength of CDC in its traditional stronghold,
There are certainly other valuable candidates, but these elections would be fought on the ground of CDC vs the collaborating opposition parties/COP. In the realms of things, everything in these elections hangs more of organizational capacity then the personality of the candidates. It will be statistically impossible for any independent candidate to break through and make it to the top. Unless of course the voters decide to cast a vote of no- confidence in the parties and the administration.
Another issue that could arise in case of victory of Dillon and Urey is whether COP will now serve as the backbone of the opposition or fade away.
The stakes are high in these elections because the outcomes will foreshadow 2020 and 2023.