With the presidential and representative elections barely a fortnight away, Liberians seem not to have heard much from those who are seeking the nation’s highest office, at least as far as key national issues are concerned. The second and final edition of the Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC) presidential debate, which takes place today, September 26 at the Paynesville City Hall, stands to be a now-or-never moment — an ultimate platform — for any candidate to make his or her point to the Liberian people.
Announcing the debate via social media on Sunday, the DDC said that “seven presidential candidates,” including Dr. J. Mills Jones and Sen. George M. Weah, both of whom were absent from the previous debate, “[had] consented to attend.” The others include the four who graced the first debate — Alexander Cummings, Cllr. Charles Brumskine, V.P. Joseph Boakai and Benoni Urey — and Madam MacDella Cooper, the only woman candidate in the race.
The first six, according to the DDC, were selected based on their rankings from a recently conducted opinion poll commissioned by the organizers of the debate, the Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC). Madam Macdella Cooper was included because she is the only woman candidate in the Presidential race.
The debate will take place today, Tuesday, (September 26) at the Paynesville City Hall beginning at 1 PM.
The thematic issues on the agenda are:
1. Economy (with emphasis on poverty alleviation), 2. Youth empowerment (with emphasis on education and job creation), 3. Land rights (in the context of natural resource management) and 4. gender empowerment.
The seven candidates have originally consented to attend are Alexander Cummings (ANC), Cllr. Charles Brumskine (Liberty Party), George Weah (CDC), Joseph Boakai (Unity Party), Benoni Urey (ALP), Mills Jones (MOVEE) and Mcdella Cooper (Liberia Restoration Party).
The Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC) is made up of the Liberia Media Center, The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, The Press Union of Liberia, The Center for Transparency and Accountability, The Angie Brooks International Center and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee.
But unfortunately, like the previous debate, the political leader of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Senator M. Weah may not take part in the debate that would have given him the chance to articulate his views on the essential issues that would be examined which could have given electorates and his partisans the opportunity to hear him explain the vision of the CDC and his personal direction for the country if elected president on October 10.
The CDC yesterday confirmed that its standard-bearer has already left the country and therefore will not be available for this much anticipated political intellectual battle.
Though his partisans seem not to get the message that participating in a debate provides an exceptional opportunity to be heard by the electorate, however, many of his opponents are pointing fingers at what could be his “limitation” that he admitted to during his recent visit to Nimba County.
“Despite my limitation,” Senator Weah said, “I conquered the world on the soccer field.” This limitation, he alluded, has to do with his apparent difficulty in managing communication, whether reading or being delivered extemporaneously.
While Weah and his partisans and others don’t seem to be bothered with what many considered as a major plus in making himself heard, it is clear that the next president must overcome any speaking phobia because the job of a president demands someone who is prepared to meet many difficult tasks, including speaking head on.
Senator Weah’s absence from this latest debate, according to some stalwarts of the party, is due to an invitation extended to him by the European Union (EU) for a conference in Brussels. Weah is also expected to meet with the head of the African Union in Paris from September 25 – 26.
Though party stalwarts refused to disclose the reason(s) for the EU invite, Senator Weah’s trip to Brussels is linked to his alleged connections to former President Charles G. Taylor, who was convicted to serve a 50-year jail term in the United Kingdom.
The EU released a statement last week in which it expressed concerns about the influence of Taylor in the forthcoming elections. Senator Weah has Taylor’s ex-wife, Jewel Howard Taylor, as his running mate. This was after Taylor’s NPP formed a merger with the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Liberian People Democratic Party (LPDP) to form a coalition.
Weah’s latest absence may just strengthen the entrenched belief of many Liberians that he does not have the intellectual sophistication and capacity to govern the Liberian state. Many Liberians have come to believe that his habitual avoidance of intellectual exercise demonstrates his lack of ability to articulate his views, because of his difficulty with the English language.
It is clear that participating in a debate would allow each candidate to answer to burning issues with suggestions of what an individual candidate could do, in the event of he or she being elected as president.
Appearing for a debate also allows one’s opponents and others who don’t understand a candidate’s competence and political ideology to gain knowledge of what a candidate truly stands for.
Undecided voters and even partisans of various political parties use debates to evaluate politicians to build trust and make their ultimate choice.
rue, no leader rules alone, but the next leader is required to understand the evolving dynamics of the global economy and the role of labor in sustainable development, in ensuring security, private sector growth, and workforce development strategies.
The six key areas of focus of the first debate were: the economy; security and rule of law; peace and reconciliation; anti-corruption policy; agriculture; and youth empowerment.
The debate, which was monitored by Liberians at home and abroad and international policymakers, was reported to be the most organized political event involving rival political candidates in the history of Liberia.
Many felt that to see politicians on stage together talking respectfully about ideas and advancing solutions to addressing the country’s problems and recommending solutions is a major milestone and therefore to be absent to demonstrate his readiness to lead may be a disappointment to many of the electorates who may now be convinced that the CDC standard bearer deserves more time to regain his political equilibrium in the emerging democratic evolution to build a country for all.
PUL Pulls out of the Debate
However, the DDC debate seems to have been undermined by the withdrawal of one of the core organizers, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), for administrative reasons.
A PUL release yesterday noted that it considers the October 10 elections as critical to the stability of the country and its democracy and therefore wants to maintain its place as the moral conscience of the society and called on all political parties and candidates to honor invitations from the DDC.
Meanwhile, the PUL leadership has declared that it stands by its initial decision to relieve Mr. Lamii Kpagoi of his post as Officer-in-Charge of the Liberia Media Center (LMC). The PUL says the decision is in the best interest of the LMC and is aimed at moving the institution forward.
The PUL has appointed Mr. Kloniouous Blamo as acting Officer-in-Charge of the LMC pending the appointment of a permanent Executive Director.