By Reginald B. Goodridge, Sr.
The resounding victory of the Coalition for Democratic Change on December 26, 2017 set a new dynamic in Liberian democracy that the most careful political pundit could not have predicted. Although the writing was on the wall from the results of the October 10 polls, the fallout from the drawn out legal challenges to those results may have blurred the rational calculations of an eventual CDC victory.
Three critical issues that make CDC’s victory good for Liberian democracy stand out for consideration as the nation and the international community adjust to the reality of a George Weah presidency.
The first issue presents the prospect that tribal and sectarian politics have been dealt a fatal blow in favour of a more inclusive, broad-based political climate. Yes, it is true that geographic factors played a vital role in the elections results with Weah’s CDC dominating in the Southeastern region; but how does one explain the fact that CDC swept large areas of the country (14 out of 15 counties); the Northwestern and Central regions, which are the political base of Vice President Joseph Boakai’s Unity Party, UP?
It is certain that the UP’s campaign strategy of focusing on tribal alliances and utterances, as well as narrowing its political base to the Northwestern and Central regions of the country did not appeal to many voters across the board. Of course, one cannot discount the dismal performance of the Unity Party over the past twelve years that evoked a national chorus for change at all cost.
By contrast, the CDC presented the only real political coalition that cuts across all demographic, cultural, social, ethnic and tribal lines. In this respect, Liberian democracy is right where it should be, represented by a government for, by and of the people, rather than a government of exclusion represented solely by ethnic and tribal linkages.
The second critical issue that makes CDC victory good for Liberian democracy is that it probably spells the terminal point for cash violence in our electoral processes. It is estimated that the collective amount of cash spent by the Unity Party, Liberty Party, Alternative National Congress, All Liberian Party, and Movement for Economic Empowerment could well exceed US$12 million. Most of this money was spent not on winning the hearts and minds of voters based on sound policies, but rather on buying the loyalty of voters, absent the common touch with the common people of the respective standard bearers. The Liberian voters finally demonstrated to the presidential aspirants and to the world their high level of intelligence pertaining to their core interests instead of bargaining their constitutional franchise for a few dollars.
By contrast, the CDC brought back to Liberian politics the idea that one should volunteer their time and efforts to get someone elected based on a belief in the philosophies, likeability, and identification with the policies of the individual running for office. When you see an unemployed individual living on US$1.00 a day producing his own campaign T-shirts and other materials, and walking on empty stomach from door to door to campaign for his/her candidate, I think my point here is well made. There is much that other political parties can learn from the CDC experience by managing the expectations of the voters, rather than trying to buy their expectations.
The third, and perhaps, not the final critical issue that makes CDC victory good for Liberian democracy is that it has muffled the voices of the Progressives that have held Liberian politics hostage for the past four decades. All these years, the so-called progressives were petty bourgeois actors disguised as grassroots activists. They misled the masses into believing that utopia was at hand simply because they said so and by removing the established government that had a system in place to care for the general welfare of the people, although that system may not have been perfect.
It is clear to see that the Liberian masses are worse off today than they were forty years ago when the Progressives began to ply their anti-establishment political trade. In all these years the Progressives have failed miserably to win elected positions. They have only succeeded to enrich themselves as perennial employees of the Liberian government at the expense of the tax payers.
The clear challenge for the George Weah presidency is to ensure that the Progressives do not meander their way back into the political system to influence unholy feelings among the youths who hold high expectations for their man to succeed. There must be a pragmatic approach to governing the country based on what the people want, and not what the government thinks the people want.
President-elect George Weah inherits a country torn apart by high unemployment, low income, high cost of living, domination of the economy by foreigners, poor infrastructure, poor health care system, unproductive agricultural sector, indiscipline among many of our people, and many other problems too numerous to mention.
What will be the first thing that President George Weah will do when he sits behind that presidential desk after the inauguration? What will his presidential appointees look like? Who will be the key individual on whom he will depend to give confidence to the Liberian people? How will he afford opportunities to the Liberian business community to give them a chance to compete effectively against the juggernaut of the foreign businessman? How will he approach the international community to ensure that our ‘foreign partners’ remain engaged to help develop the economy? How will he fight corruption in the first 100 days of his administration? What will be the first thing he will do for the youths of this country to give them HOPE after the CHANGE has occurred? How will the youths of Liberia feel about President George Weah three to six months from now?
The whole world is watching. The Liberian political football has now been passed to George Weah to score that golden goal for the Liberian people. We wish for him and the new government the very best. All hands on board.