Liberia: The Hunt For First-Time Voters

Liberians stand in queues as they wait to register to vote. (Photo: Darlington Porkpa)

.... The elections must be won on merit. The parties must deliver substantive, genuine, verifiable, and peace-oriented messages during this electioneering period.

The phrase, FIRST-TIME VOTERS, must have been around for a long but was actually made popular in our domicile (Liberia) during the 2020 Senatorial Election. It was said in many quarters that one of the potential blocs of voters for the governing CDC’s candidates, particularly in Montserrado County, was those young folks who were voting for the first time.

The reason given by supporters of the governing party for hoping on the first time voters was because many of them attained the legal voting age of 18 during President Weah’s administration and would therefore have a better appreciation of his performance and deliverables as president of Liberia, or would just vote the CDC’s candidates based on their love for the President.

There may not be any scientific evidence to prove the voting pattern of the first-time voters in that election — where they voted, how they voted, and who they actually voted for in their majority, but drawing a raw clue from the results of the election, especially in Montserrado County. One would safely conclude that the hope that first-time voters were going the CDC'S way did not materialize because candidates of the governing party were massively defeated, with Montserrado County producing arguably the most resounding electoral blow, as Darius Dillon of the Liberty Party (CPP) massacred the CDC’s candidate, Representative Thomas P. Fallah with a disastrous margin of 100,000 plus votes.

Having provided this short background, let me now briefly focus on my main purpose of dealing with the insensitive, disrespectful, selfish, self-defeating and self-indicting implications of this toxic cliche, “FIRST TIME VOTERS.”

It is my unapologetic opinion that any political party, collaboration, alliance, or candidate who, with unbridled emphasis, considers first time voters as a group of people who constitutes an ignorant and vulnerable trump card to win election at all costs, is a suspect of fraud, theft, and political racketeering, based on the shaky foundation of desperation and hopelessness.

Whether it’s the governing Coalition for Democratic Change or the opposition, anybody or group of people who sees first time voters as fragile targets to feed on, is guilty of what I call intelligence theft and generational manipulation, born out of the lack of sincere, verifiable and inspiring message. This is a grand fraud punishable by democratic rejection and scorning.

For President Weah and the CDC, dwelling too much on first-time voters would mean an implied confession and conclusion that the majority of the people that voted for you when they were much younger and did not have the required clue as to what they were actually voting for would now make better sense of the political and economic issues and will vote otherwise. Equally, if people from the opposition bloc are banking on first-time voters as a constituency that could enhance their chances, it would also mean that they don't have any message to convince the people why they want to be an alternative to the CDC, and so they too want to take advantage of the presumed ignorance of first-time voters to get them to vote against the governing party.

I believe that President Weah and the CDC, instead of placing more emphasis on first time voters, should base their campaign on what the government has achieved or delivered for the people in terms of economic growth and development, infrastructure, purchasing power, freedom, justice and rule of law, etc. The opposition too should not attempt to feed on the perceived or presumed ignorance of first time voters and manipulate them into believing and accepting their messages merely on the fact that they are young and therefore have little or no understanding of the governance and electoral issues.

The elections must be won on merit. The parties must deliver substantive, genuine, verifiable, and peace-oriented messages during this electioneering period. President Weah and the governing party must articulate clearly and sincerely how they've been able to improve the economy in terms of foreign direct investment, ease of doing business, security, peace, reconciliation, press freedom and freedom of speech, job creation, education, and healthcare, among others, and not focus too much on the presumably innocent and ignorant community of first-time voters.

Come clean and clear, and campaign to the Liberian people, whether first time voters, second time voters, or multiple time voters. They have eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to think. They know what is wrong and what is right, what is good and what is bad. They will reward you if they believe that your first six year period was beneficial to them. They would keep you in office if they believe that the Liberia you are presiding over now is better than the Liberia you met, or the Liberia they want to see. Equally, they would vote you out of power if they feel or believe the opposite.

The people would also bring the opposition to power if they believe there’s a need for change and that the opposition offers a better alternative to what they are seeing, feeling and enduring from the incumbent administration.

Again, on THE HUNT FOR FIRST TIME VOTERS, this is my opinion.