Three ranking senators, including the Senate Pro Tempore, have written the plenary of the Senate suggesting that multiparty democracy in the framework of two to three political parties is a healthy platform for Liberia’s “little population.”
Article 77 (a) of the 1986 Constitution states: “Since the essence of democracy is free competition of ideas expressed by political parties and political groups as well as individuals, parties may freely be established to advocate the political opinions of the people.”
However, the Pro Temp and his team “strongly believe that the spirit of this constitutional provision is being misapplied and abused. This is totally disingenuous to national integration, peaceful co-existence and national unity as expressed in Article 5 (a) of the same Constitution.
“Article 5 among other things calls for the strengthening of national integration and unity of the people of Liberia, regardless of ethnic, regional or other differences, into one body politic, with the Legislature enacting laws promoting national unification …”
But in their letter, Pro Temp Armah Jallah, Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Dallas A.V. Gueh of Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa and Rivercess counties, respectively, noted: “We are of the conviction that we can achieve the desired objective of Article 77 without creating any form of social and political disintegration that could possibly lead us down the ugly road that we just treaded on. Multiparty democracy in the framework of two to three political parties is a healthy platform for our little population of a little over four million people.”
The senators argued that the mushrooming of political parties clearly undermines the provision of the Constitution, and has no generic economic political dividends, “but a scheme for political self-aggrandizement; a manipulation to achieve selfish political desires other than any nationalistic intent.”
They warned their colleagues not to allow the country to be devoured by “political vultures who only want recognition and absorption in an elected government rather than thinking about the general welfare of the electorates.”
The senators in their May 3 letter wondered whether their colleagues realize that the international community does not take Liberians seriously if they see the country and people being divided by mushrooming parties.
“It clearly reveals that we have not learned any lesson from history; we become a laughingstock each day a new party is certificated and the only thing that keeps them from speaking out is their respect for our national sovereignty.”
Concluding, the senators decried the form and manner in which Liberians carry on multi-party democracy, which they claimed, “clearly expose our political immaturity,” and challenged politicians to work together for the common good of democracy and refrain from attitudes that portray selfishness. “The time to act is now.”
“Therefore, after a scrupulous debate and analysis of this issue, we would like to suggest that political parties’ delimitation forms part of the upcoming national referendum.”
As expected, the long debate that followed saw the plenary almost equally divided, with those against reminding their colleagues that lives were lost before the country could reach to the present state of multi-party democracy, and that nothing should be done to remind people of those dreadful years of one party state.
Among those against the delimitation of parties are Senators Gbleh-Bo Brown (Maryland) and Prince Y. Johnson (Nimba) whose newly formed party has reportedly been certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
For his part, River Gee Senator Conmany Wesseh reminded proponents of the new proposition that there are still 25 propositions that are yet to be touched, adding: “with all the good intentions this might just be one of the things for the file, because we got 25 before this one.”
Quoting several constitutional provisions with regards to the formation of a political party, Wesseh regretted that the election laws are not being enforced by the National Elections Commission (NEC). “If the election laws were enforced consistent with the Constitution and with existing statutes, some of the concerns our friends have would be addressed, such as the need for a proposed party to have 500 registered voters in six of the 15 counties.
“So I will not waste my time on constitutional amendment when I can use these existing rules and laws…to deal with the problems my colleagues are trying to put forward.” He went on to name other areas such as availability of a well furnished office for a political party, contributions to party, which is restricted to only Liberians, among others.
The letter was meanwhile sent to the Committees on Judiciary and Autonomous Commission with the mandate to ascertain from NEC whether election rules and guidelines are scrupulously followed by political parties, and report to plenary in two weeks.