“Campaign Promises are Morally, Legally Enforceable”

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Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner, Dean, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia

Cllr. Negbalee Warner cautions elected officials

Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner, dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, has become the latest high profile Liberians calling on the CDC-led government to make available its campaign promises, something which they did not do during the political campaign period last year.

Cllr. Warner said in the absence of a public unveiled campaign policy by the government, it becomes difficult to hold the government accountable for their actions, which undermines democracy in some instances. He noted that when campaign promises are made available, they become morally and legally enforceable because that is what the people will hold them in the account during the campaign period.

He made these comments yesterday at the official launch of the President’s Meter Project (PMP) in Monrovia. The President’s Meter is an online platform designed to track President George M. Weah’s campaign promises, replicating the Buharimeter of Nigeria.

As part of the project, NAYMOTE has reproduced 800 copies of the CDC Party’s Manifesto which is being distributed across the country to help citizens understand what was promised during the elections. The institution has also produced a drama series titled, “We Voted, So What?”, which is being aired across Bong, Margibi, Lofa, and Nimba Counties, educating citizens on the CDC Party’s Manifesto and the institution has erected 15 signboards in key cities to create awareness about the project and promises and also engaging the media (social media and community radio stations).

NAYMOTE has also identified and quantified 66 campaign promises from the CDC’s Manifesto and 20 promises from speeches and other sources made by the President since his induction.

The public availability of campaign promises helps citizens to track government performance, which puts them to their feet to do their best.

The President’s Meter Project is put at US$189,000 and is basically designed to ensure democratic accountability by documenting, monitoring and tracking the government‘s progress in the implementation of its campaign and governance promises.

The project is currently being implemented by NAYMOTE, in Partnership with the Center for Democratic Development with support from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA).  The President’s Meter marks the seventh of such initiatives that OSIWA has sponsored in the sub-region.

“Campaign promises are not empty talks. In fact, they are morally and legally enforceable,” Cllr. Warner stated.

Warner, who served as the chief launcher of the PMP, further said these promises are legally enforceable because there is hardly any reasonable and self-respecting person who will not agree with the basic training that one should keep his or her words.

“Imagine what a bad lesson it will teach if we all were to perceive that these were just big political talks that were not meant to be.”

He said it is important to know that campaign promise is unilaterally contracted as soon as the candidate has succeeded.  He used the occasion to remind politicians who though they were being smart by not putting their promises in writing. “It does not need to be written documents because it is an enforceable contract by law.”

He, however, told the gathering that over the years campaign promises that were made repeatedly in Liberia with no intent to be kept are not only morally offensive, but they are legally offensive.

“We need to hold our promisors accountable,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Eddie Jarwolo in remarks told the gathering that this is also intended to build public trust in the government and to increase accountability and remind the President George Weah of those promises made. He further said as parts of NAYMOTE’s efforts to ensure that government does meet up with its promises, NAYMOTE remains committed to engaging the necessary stakeholders. Jarwolo, however, lauded OSIWA and other partners for their support to the project.

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  1. I disagree with Counsel that campaign promise are legally enforceable. I admit, I am not abreast of the Laws of Liberia and have not read the current constitution, but I am not aware that there is any statutory mandate for a candidate to implement his promises as campaigned on once he takes office. The promises made are in light of a candidate’s understanding of the decisions and the impact to the country of such decisions he is exposed to and that are measureable. No one outside a current administration has an absolute understanding of the operations of the administration, which is further complicated when there are no transparency and accountability that accurately document decisions made, discussions held and participants and stakeholders in major decisions by an administration. That’s not to suggest there is anything illegal about that; there are reasons for grounded in national security concern and protection of the privacy of a nation’s sovereignty. Political platforms or manifesto or whatever other names one calls them are ideas, visions and goals formed within the framework of a formal structure (e.g., Political party) that allow citizens to easily align with those they believe would enhance the country’s welfare and vote for those they believe in. There’s certainly a moral obligation to follow through with your promises, and the voters have the privilege to cast their votes in the subsequent election on whether they agree with how the wining candidates fulfilled those promises they campaigned on and were voted into office on. Remember, the CDC government did not win 100% of the votes, so for Mr.. Weah to succeed, he has compromise with the other political parties who elected office holders to the Legislature. He was given a mandate to lead the country not CDC and has to now consider the interest of the country as his primary responsibility. Now, that’s legally enforceable because that’s clearly delineated in the constitution. To promote an understanding , where none exists statutorily, suggests that the elected President and his administration were clearly aware of all the intricate details of the prior administration’s operations. That’s impossible, because there are national securities issues and economic issues discussions held at the highest levels of government away from the public square, with only subject matters experts invited on a need to know basis, to avoid unnecessary critique by those with no substantial skills or knowledge to make any positive contribution. A candidate running for public office would not know the details of those discussions and both the short term and long term impact those would have on the nation’s economy once the candidate takes office. We see that even in the Presidency of the U.S. Barrack Obama had campaigned on his desire to withdraw all American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, once he got into office and became exposed to the facts that only the President and his high level national security and foreign services teams are privy to, he actually ended up increasing the forces, at least in the short term as the national security interest of the nation demanded such. It was later in his term that he began to draw down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, with still a minimum presence of U.S. support services remaining. Again another decision based on current facts and circumstances. The problem with the administration is there is not enough transparency in how and why they make certain decisions. And furthermore, you have too many individuals making comments for the president that create a sense that the President may not have a full understanding of the intricacies of the office he holds and his responsibilities, including the qualifications of those he appoints to senior level offices. Many still remember when his Spokesperson made a comment that the President did not need any strategy to govern. I doubt that the President ever told him that, yet he came out and made such a comment. A presidential spokesperson should have a daily briefing with the president and his immediate national, economic and foreign staff on the issues of the day and understand where the consensus is from the daily briefing before he or she comes out to address the public so as not to contradict the President. I therefore found it strange that the Dean of the Law School would make a statement that the President campaign’s promises are legal enforceable. If that’s written in the constitution, it needs to be removed.

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