.... The voters must also be discerning and choose the candidate who they believe is the best person to lead the country. But how can they, in the absence of a debate? They must not be swayed by the mudslinging and the empty promises. They must vote for the candidate who has a plan to make Liberia a better place.
It is clear to all by now that the 2023 Liberian presidential election will be a three-horse race between incumbent President George Weah, former Vice President Joseph Boakai, and Alexander Cummings, the former chief administrative officer of Coca-Cola. And with just three weeks to go until the election, it is likely that there would be a run-off.
As the incumbent, Weah is facing increasing challenges of his own making, evidenced by his declining popularity in recent months due to a number of factors, including the country's high unemployment rate, the rising cost of living, and allegations of corruption and, lately, alleged ties to drug trafficking. Boakai, on the other hand, has been campaigning on a platform of unity and economic development. Yet his ability to unify the opposition into a decisive voter base has been found wanting. Cummings has also been gaining ground, thanks to his strong campaign organization and his issues-based message of change.
In addition to the top three candidates, there are a total of 20 other presidential candidates in the race. However, it is unlikely that any of these candidates, individually, will have a significant impact on the outcome of the election. Yet, collectively, their impact could be more felt among undecided voters who see no future in either of the top three candidates.
Most of these candidates are either running as spoilers, hustlers, or are simply using the election as a platform to raise their profiles.
Some of the candidates in the 2023 presidential election are not really in it to win. They are simply using the election as a way to prepare for the 2029 presidential race. These candidates, who we can call the “2029ers”, have tasted some appreciable degree of professional success and see the Liberian presidency as the next logical step. They know that they have no chance of winning in 2023, but they are hoping to build a political base and gain name recognition.
The 2029ers are typically tight on their campaign budgets. They do not have the resources to mount a serious campaign, so they are strategic about their activities. They do just enough to be taken seriously, but not enough to actually win.
Another category of candidates in the 2023 presidential election are the “hustlers”. These candidates are not in it to win or to prepare for the 2029 election. They are simply in it for the money.
The hustlers know that there is a lot of money to be made in a presidential election. They can raise money from donors, sell advertising, and even pocket some of the campaign funds for themselves.
The hustlers are hardly interested in the issues. They are just interested in making a profit. They will say whatever they think will get them votes, regardless of whether it is true or not.
The final category of candidates in the 2023 presidential election are the “spoilers”. These candidates are not in it to win or to make money. They are in it to sow discord and chaos.
The spoilers are typically agents of the stronger candidates or wealthy individuals who pay them to discredit the other candidates and to create confusion among the voters. Their goal is to get the top two contenders to a run-off, where their candidate has a better chance of winning.
Of Issues and Vision
There is another kind of spoiler, however. The apparent public discourse around the pending presidential elections appears to be a far cry from the issues-based debate that should characterize this political season. Can anyone name a single issue that the top two candidates are driving to woo voters, outside of throwing jabs and insults at each other?
The lack of a serious debate on the issues is a major concern for many Liberians. They are tired of the mudslinging and the empty promises. They want to know what the candidates plan to do to address the country's most pressing problems, such as poverty, unemployment, and corruption.
There have been overtures made by pro-democracy organizations to get the presidential candidates to a debate. With the exception of Cummings, the other two leading candidates — Weah and Boakai — have dodged the debate idea.
Sources close to either candidate suggest that Boakai is not interested in a debate in which Weah will not participate; and Weah cares not to debate at all. And while Cummings is confident of taking on both Boakai and Weah together, neither of them have him (Cummings) in their sights as far as a debate is concerned. Yet, among the three leading candidates, Cummings is probably the most issues-based candidate.
All candidates have a responsibility to engage in a serious debate on the issues. They need to tell the Liberian people what they plan to do to make their lives better. If they do not, they will lose the trust of the people and they will not be elected.
The 2023 Liberian presidential election is a critical moment for the country. The next president will have a major impact on the country’s future. With the West African subregion grappling with a new wave of coup d’etats and civil unrest, Liberians cannot afford to elect a president that has yet to demonstrate understanding of the issues that affect the lives of the citizens and how those issues could be addressed. It is important that the Liberian people choose a president who is committed to and capable of addressing the country’s problems and who has a vision for a better future.
The voters must also be discerning and choose the candidate who they believe is the best person to lead the country. But how can they, in the absence of a debate? They must not be swayed by the mudslinging and the empty promises. They must vote for the candidate who has a plan to make Liberia a better place.