Monrovia – The leading opposition parties looking to unseat the incumbent President George Manneh Weah at the polls in October are struggling to produce campaign money. Judging from the dominant display of campaign materials by the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, across the capital Monrovia, a lot of parties appear to be playing catchup while the smaller parties and third-tier candidates are barely visible at all, leaving many political observers baffled, fearing that the incumbent may be on course for an easy ride to a second term.
By: Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
FrontPageAfrica reporters and photographers visiting parts of the city since the start of campaign last week found the ruling party campaign images dominating the Red Light, Neezor Junction, Bardnersville Junction, Freeport, Gabriel Tucker Bridge, Sinkor and Boulevard Junction.
Similar reports are emerging from the western belts and parts of the southeast, in the President’s stronghold.
Incumbents Rarely Lose, But…
In addition to massive billboards and banners, President Weah himself has been on the campaign trail, visiting one constituent after the next and reassuring his followers that the election may already be in the bag. “It is because of you I can show what I am made of. They told you that I am just a mere footballer, but you trusted me and gave me the mandate and that confidence will make me perform to your expectation,” the President said during a stomp last week.
While campaigns are successful because of resources, there have been a few exceptions on the continent of Africa.
In the 2016 presidential elections in Ghana, John Mahama, was the loser when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Presidential Candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, edged him at the polls. Nana Addo, aged seventy-two, secured the Presidency at the third time of asking beating the incumbent, Mahama. Mahama became the first incumbent to lose a presidential election since Ghana returned to multi-party democracy in 1992.
In the 2011 elections in Nigeria, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan lost to General Muhammadu Buhari. Previous elections in Nigeria had been marred by allegations of irregularities and suspicions of rigging. In 2007 observers said the presidential poll was not “credible”. In 2011 the vote was better run, but observers said that rigging and fraud still took place
In that same year, 2011, it was a contentious affair in the Ivory Coast where Laurent Gbagbo refused to surrender power after losing to Alhassan Ouattara. In April 2011, Mr. Gbagbo was forced from office – captured in a bunker at the presidential palace by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Ouattara, internationally regarded as the winner of elections held five months earlier. The conflict killed some 3,000 people. Mr. Gbagbo faced four charges of crimes against humanity – murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhuman acts”. He denies the charges, saying he is the victim of a French plot. Mr. Gbagbo has suffered from post-traumatic stress in prison, but judges in 2015 rejected his request to be temporarily released on health grounds.
In 2012, Abdoulaye Wade, who served as President from 2000 to 2012, ran for President four times, beginning in 1978, before he was elected in 2000. He won re-election in 2007 with a majority in the first round, but in 2012, Wade conceded defeat to challenger Mack Sall as initial results in the presidential run-off election showed the opposition candidate.
CDC Boasts ‘Political Visibility’
While many political pundits acknowledge that it is hard for incumbents to lose an election given all the state resources at their disposal, the CDC attributes its early successful start to the campaign to organization.
Mr. Mulbah Morlu, chair of the party, the incumbent is just getting started. “The dominant numerical and profound political visibility of the CDC since the commencement of the campaign process is driven by the long term tactical & strategic preparedness of the party.”
For Morlu, after 18 years of existence, the CDC has fully evolved into a viable and formidable political institution. “We are a well-organized, well-structured political party, & such a prolific structure wasn’t built in a day; it has been a long time coming through sacrifice, Unity & focus.”
According to Mr. Morlu, CDC partisans and the Liberian voting population are inspired by the commendable achievements of the President; tremendous development gains are visible everywhere for all to see. “We have a focused and well-coordinated campaign structure led by some of Liberia’s best strategist. In addition to all the above, the CDC is blessed with a leader that is the most powerful and strategic campaigner-in-chief, H.E. George M. Weah. His experience, connection with the people and the confidence he engenders every time he mounts the podium, unveils him as godfather of Liberian politics who is expert in the game others are practicing.”
For opposition figures like Mo Ali, former Secretary General of the former ruling Unity Party, the reasons for the current ruling party’s visibility are obvious. “We are seeing more campaign billboards and banners from the CDC because they are effectively using state resources fund their campaign. The CDC does not have money from anywhere else besides taking money from state coffers, monies that are intended for development.”
Opposition Slams ‘Reckless Extravagance’
Mr. George Wisner, campaign chair for Montserrado County for the CPP agrees. “The CPP cannot compete for a penny for a penny with the CDC.
Mr. Wisner accuses the ruling party’s government of being mindless in their loot of state resources which they are displaying in reckless extravagance. “The CPP has been strategic and prudent. Although we intend to increase visibility which is being accelerated across the country, our focus is on making our case directly to the people we wish to serve- the Liberian people.”
Even amid to perceived edge of the incumbent, President Weah believes his achievements of the past six years is enough reason Liberians should give him a second term to enable his government carry on a fair comparison of his 12-year stay in power as compare to his predecessor, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the opposition Unity Party (UP).
For President Weah, the comparison, will clearly show Liberians and others “who is the best President.”
The President believes that a second term mandate will also afford him the opportunity to complete works he has already started, claiming to have adequately performed in his first term as compared to his predecessor.
Despite the President’s plea, political observers say while the edge of the incumbent could go a long way to helping President Weah fulfill his quest for a second term, the experiences in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and neighboring Ivory Coast could offer a lifeline for the opposition currently seeing themselves at a disadvantage against an incumbent government apparently unfazed by the noise and cries of foul play, heading into the dog days of the campaign season.