A Candidate Field Too Crowded: Need for Coalitions

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The last time we checked, National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman Jerome Korkoyah said there were 22 political parties registered, and even more were expected.

He further disclosed that so far a staggering 14 Liberians have announced that they want to run for president. They are Joseph N. Boakai, the incumbent Vice President of Liberia—Unity Party (UP); George Weah—Congress for Democratic Change (CDC); Charles W. Brumskine—Liberty Party (LP); Benoni Urey
—All Liberian Party (ALP), and Alex Cummings—Alternative National Congress (ANC). The others are Dr. J. Mills Jones— Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE); Augustine Ngafuan; Alex Tyler—Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP); Jallah Barbu—Liberia National Union (LNU); Rev. Sandy Kennedy; Senator Prince Johnson; Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh; journalist Carlton Boah; and Toga Gayweah McKintosh.

NEC expects even more parties to emerge.

This makes us wonder whither Liberian democracy? A tiny country with a tiny population, one of the smallest in the West African sub region, with 23 political parties?

What are we trying to prove—that the thing that J.J. Roberts started in 1847 with only two political parties—his, the Administration Party (AP), and his opponent, Samuel Benedict’s Anti-Administration Party (AAP)—has now become full blown, with a whopping twenty-three political parties?

Just to give our readers a historical reflection, Governor Roberts’ AP became the True Liberian Party (TLP) in the next election. According to the Historical Dictionary of Liberia (Dunn, Beyan and Borrowes), in the election that followed, the TLP contested as the Republican Party (RP).

The Republicans remained in power until the election of 1869, when the newly established True Whig Party (TWP), headed by its standard bearer Edward J. Roye, won. But when President Roye was overthrown in 1871, the Republican Party returned to power, ruling until 1877, when the TWP won again, with Anthony W. Gardiner as President. He was succeeded by President Hilary Richard Wright Johnson, son of Elijah Johnson, who was nominated both by the RP and the TWP. President Johnson chose his Cabinet from both parties, following which no one ever again heard about the RP. So, the TWP’s long hegemony lasted for over a century, from 1877 to 1980, when its last President, William R. Tolbert, Jr., was overthrown by the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), led by Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe.

The PRC immediately suspended the 1847 Constitution and appointed a National Constitution Commission, headed by Chairman Amos Sawyer. That Constitutional Draft was completed in April 1983. It was later handed over to the Constitutional Advisory Assembly which, under the leadership of Dr. Edward Kesselly, Chairman, watered down the document to please Samuel Doe who, by that time, against the candid advice of many, was determined to run for President.

Doe had been strongly advised by Albert Porte not to run; otherwise he would lead the country to disaster. But Doe, who with the PRC had in 1980 hailed Mr. Porte as “the father of the revolution,” threatened to imprison him in the Post Stockade the next time he wrote Doe such a letter!

And run Doe did in the October 1985 presidential and general elections. Four parties contested: Liberia Action Party (LAP), founded by Jackson F. Doe, Harry A. Greaves, Sr., Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Byron Tarr, Peter Johnson, David Farhat, Emmanuel Koromah, Harry A. Greaves Jr., Tuahn Wreh and Nah Doe Bropleh; National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), founded by Samuel K. Doe; Liberia Unification Party (LUP), founded by school teacher Gabriel Kpoleh; and Unity Party, founded by Dr. Kesselly.

The 1985 elections turned out to be the most inclusive in our history, because unlike the elections of 1847, when the indigenous majority and women were excluded, the 1985 elections were truly one person, one vote, including most Liberians 18 and above. There were long lines everywhere throughout the country, people standing for hours to cast their votes. It was a great, historic and joyful day, viciously and heartrendingly spoilt by Special Elections Commission Chairman Emmet Harmon and Samuel Doe, who went on to rig the vote. While everyone knew that LAP standard bearer Jackson F. Doe had won the election, Chairman Harmon announced, to everyone’s consternation and tearful disappointment, that the winner was Samuel K. Doe!

Following his inauguration in January 1986, military dictator Doe continued to lead Liberia through terror, not resting until he had led the country to civil war. It would not have come to that had he listened to Albert Porte.

We today appeal to all Liberian politicians, especially the leaders of political parties and the presidential candidates, to realize that Liberian democracy is the oldest on the continent. We started this thing. Let us therefore behave as such; and let our conduct of the ensuing election demonstrate our political maturity.

To do that, let our parties form coalitions and let the presidential candidates form alliances, so that there are no more than four parties or less. Let us make the 2017 election truly respectable, credible, free and fair and show the world that there is unity and peace in Liberia.

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