By Rufus S. Berry II, MBA, Independent Political Consultant & Financial Expert
Democracy isn’t about competence when the electorate aren’t informed and educated, but popularity. Sadly, most Liberian would say for over 150 years, our people weren’t educated and were ill-informed.
The hypothesis has long been established that an informed electorate is a prerequisite for lasting democracy. If voters do not know what is going on in politics, they cannot rationally exercise control over government policy. Large-scale voter ignorance poses a serious danger to our emerging democracy after many years of civil unrest in our beloved country. It is particularly troubling at a time when the ruling party – The Unity Party – is questioning the credibility and integrity of both the National Election Commissions and the results of the October 10th presidential and legislative elections.
The 2017 presidential and legislative elections are unlike any other in Liberian history. The elections have shown that political leaders in our country don’t need to be competent, sincere or honest. They only need to appear to have these qualities. Most of all they need a story, a narrative. The hypothesis has now been established that the reality of the narrative is irrelevant, and could be completely at odds with the facts. The consistency and emotional appeal of the story are paramount and the perhaps, the most essential skill in political theater and the consumer culture is artifice and so it goes.
Many Liberians are asking and rightfully so, ‘Why Now?’ You were the government that appointed the chairman and every commissioner of the National Elections Commission (NEC) of the Republic of Liberia. You were the government that allowed a citizen of the United States of America to head NEC. So why now and where was UP?
You were the government that allowed the code of conduct to pass without mounting an aggressing opposition. The political parties weren’t firm on the implementation of the code of conduct, therefore, as most Liberians are saying, the Supreme Court was left with no other choice but to go with perhaps what the president wanted. So why now, and where was UP?
Many Liberian are now saying President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf love for her son Robert Sirleaf perhaps supersedes her love for the Republic of Liberia…. They’re saying Robert Sirleaf had major influence in the appointments of some of the most incompetent and corrupt officials in her government, and Robert is now financially supporting CDC.” So why now, and where was UP?
The elections commission printed thousands of excess ballet boxes, which didn’t make sense at all. So, what was the UP position on this matter. So why now, and where was UP?
The President allowed ministers and heads of state own enterprises to resign and contest the October 9, elections. Immediately after the elections, they all went back to their respective jobs/positions after they had lost. So, what was the UP position on this matter. So why now, and where was UP?
UP is discussing boycotting the 2nd round, citing massive frauds in the 1st round and NEC incompetence. We understand there were irregularities. The question most Liberians are asking – do these irregularities rise to the level that would invalidate the process, as in the case with the Kenyan elections? Were the irregularities sufficient and significant to rise to the level where they could have changed the outcome of the elections? If so, why didn’t the Unity Party join forces with the Liberty Party from the beginning to protest the elections. So, what was the UP position on this matter. So why now, and where was UP?
Most Liberians are asking if the UP protest is about Liberia and in the interest of the Republic of Liberia, or merely to undermine the process because they didn’t win the first round of voting. Why didn’t the UP led government question the process from the very beginning. So why now, and where was UP?
I’m in total agreement with the notion that inadequate voter knowledge has major negative implications for our democracy. It’s clearly evident that uneducated and ill-informed voters prevent democratic government from reflecting the will of the people in any meaningful sense, thus undercutting the “fundamental” defense of democracy as a government that reflects the voluntary decisions of the populace. At the same token, an ill-informed and uneducated voter most certainly jeopardizes the influential case for democracy as a government that serves the interests of the majority, since voters lack of knowledge potentially opens the door for both elite manipulation of the public and gross policy errors caused by politicians need to appeal to an ignorant electorate in order to win office. Either way, an uneducated and ill-informed electorate – voters ignorance not just about specific policy issues but also about the basic structure of government and how it operate, has always been and will continue to be a danger to our democracy.
Let’s not fool ourselves, Senator Prince Johnson’s endorsement of Senator George M. Weah could be a game changer for the 2017 presidential election. Princes Johnson partisans of MDR, his tribal supporters, and the elders in Nimba aren’t 100% likely to swing the election for Senator Weah. However, each may have a small positive effect, and their cumulative effect may matter in the end—especially if the race between Vice President Boakai and Senator Weah ends up being a nail-biter in nine days. Anything is possible, but the Vice President has an uphill battle on the 7th of November.
After both studying, analyzing current and historical numbers for weeks, I do think this election has the potential to shatter the normal boundaries of Liberian politics and reset everything, including, perhaps, reset the keys to the Executive Mansion. I’m certainly not looking at a crystal ball, but the keys are based on history, and certainly based on a lot of changes in history, and they’re very robust. The hypothesis will clearly establish that change is so cataclysmic that it changes the fundamentals of how we do our politics, and this election has the potential — we don’t know yet, but it has the potential.
This election will go down as one of the most anomalous we have had. The closest one it was the 1997 election between Charles G. Taylor and Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, when the country’s fundamental rights of democracy, free expression and liberty were at stake. This time, Liberia must decide between maintaining the status quo and the great unknown – Absolutely Great Unknown.
It has now been established that crowds at political rallies aren’t the best indicator to make any projection, because most Liberians are still belly driven. The core values of our open society, the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense indicate something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to understand historical facts, to separate truth from lies, to advocate for change and to acknowledge that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable, are perhaps dead or dying slowing and need to be resuscitated
The UP-led government wants to condemn the process that the party supported all along. This is not fair at all to the Liberian people. Why at this late stage, twenty days after the elections and less than nine days before the runoff election. Why now?