The word GUIDELINE is a detailed plan or explanation to guide people in setting standards or determining a course of action. Put in another way, it is a rule or principle for appropriate behavior.
Being what it is by definition, guidelines could evolve as laws that are made in consonance with a superior body of laws to control behavior and actions of people in certain organizations, groups or associations. It is within this context that the National Elections Commission (NEC) came out with a set of guidelines in consonance with the Constitution and Elections Law to govern activities of political parties and independent candidates in the electoral process.
One of the guidelines is one having to do with campaigning, one major activity, if not the most important, that allows political parties and individuals to sell their platforms to voters with the intent of winning the various positions, including the presidency, in the election.
In order to ensure equality in this democratically competitive process, the National Elections Commission set a timeline for each activity to guide politicians and voters; the registration of political parties and independent candidates; voter registration; voters’ roll exhibition; final listing of voters; commencement and end of campaign; and election day, just to randomly name a few.
For campaigns, the NEC set it from July 31 to October 8, 2017. But since we entered 2017 and the euphoria for election rose, political parties and candidates have been vigorously engaged in campaign-like activities across the country without regard for the guideline.
As recent evidence can show, the political leader of the main opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), George Weah, on June 25 had nothing to tell his supporters in Montserrado District #2 but to castigate other politicians including Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party and other presidential hopefuls that they are immaterial for Liberia; maintaining himself as the only patriot who can lead the country to prosperity.
This editorial is not meant to delve into the credibility and competence of Weah to lead Liberia, though he claims to be our savior. However, in his assertions in that district, Weah described Vice President Boakai as a failed person who has worked in government for 40 years with nothing to show as his impact on the larger society. He referred to Charles Walker Brumskine as part of the same corrupt group of people who have contributed nothing to the betterment of the country.
Like Weah, Cllr. Brumskine has been touring the counties selling Liberty Party as the liberator of the country, branding himself and his running mate, Harrison Karnwea, as the best people with a vision for Liberia. Vice President Joseph Boakai has been quiet with all the comments made against him, but his Unity Party members and other supporters have also been selling him to the Liberian people ahead of the campaign period. The same has been the case of Dr. J. Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE). He, too, has been on the tour asking voters to prioritize him for the presidency because he is “The poverty doctor” who can save the country. Others including Alexander Cummings have been carrying out similar activities in contravention of the guideline for campaign as set by the National Elections Commission.
It may be recalled that early this year the NEC mandated that since campaign has not begun, political parties and independent candidates should remove placards from the streets and avoid all pre-campaign activities; yet we continue to see campaign activities and hear campaign messages.
There is no theoretical rationale given by NEC to substantiate its mandate for politicians not campaigning ahead of time except for the fact that it is a guideline; nevertheless, we believe in our right mind also that observing the guideline will create an equitable environment to allow all parties to start the competition at the same time and weigh one another’s strength to voters.
It may be recalled that on June 25 some political parties were accredited to contest in the election. What becomes of these parties in terms of campaign that others have begun? How fair is it to them when every party must begin campaign together?
When we take a cue from the US election, one will realize that during primaries for the Republicans and Democrats to elect their presidential candidates, criticisms and competition were rife among members of the same party. After primaries ended and campaign began, the two contenders then began the political battle against each other at the national level.
Contrary to these sequential events associated with democracy, Liberian politicians are conducting primaries and at the same time campaigning.
As people wishing to seize state power and expecting others to abide by the law, you should be the first to obey the law so that the ordinary people will imitate your good example. We believe that the pre-campaigning activities politicians are carrying out are in violation of the election guideline, and they must stop. We also want the NEC to be consistent to enforce its own rules irrespective of personality or the position of violators to show the Liberian people and partners that it is a serious body.