Since active democratic participation began in 2005 following fourteen years of civil war, Liberians have exercised freedom of political association at a greater level. This is backed by Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution which states, “All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.”
This right has not only given politicians the freedom to speak their minds on issues in the country, it has given new meaning to the right of political association. Before 1980, you were either a member of the ruling party or you were not affiliated with any party because there was only one – the True Whig Party. Nowadays, if you did not like the Unity Party (UP), there is a smorgasbord of other political parties to choose from.
As the 2017 presidential and legislative elections draw closer, migration from one party to the other has begun, with the latest being Dr. Nathaniel Barnes resigning from the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). Also suffering from defection are the Liberty Party (LP) and Unity Party (UP) from where Samuel Gba Benette and Matthew Fairplay Joe, respectively, left to join the CDC. Earlier, Kanio Bai Gbala had defected from the CDC to Liberty Party and Mrs. Pauline Weah Nyanforh from the CDC to the Alternative National Congress (ANC). Besides these specific names, a lot more had left one party to join another.
What’s the intention of all these defections we continue to see during election in this country?
While some of the defectors may have tangible reasons for their actions, it remains clear that most people are migrating from one party to the other not because of differences in political philosophies and ideologies, but to seek greener pastures, which may result into negative consequences for the electorates and the country itself. This is evidenced by Mrs. Pauline Weah Nyanforh’s revelation that five incumbent Representatives of Montserrado County allegedly gave US$25,000 each to CDC political leader, George Weah, to have slots to contest the election on that party’s ticket.
CDC has been very popular especially among the vulnerable youth over the years. The system of voting by vulnerable youth in this party has been “Vote one vote all,” something that paved the way to the ascension of many deceptive individuals to Representative positions after the 2011 election. Do we remember “You eat I eat?” Those few educated men and women following George Weah know that he does not have the competence to lead this country, but because they want positions in government and want to get the votes of the vulnerable youth, they set the impression that he can lead this country. For the 2011 presidential election, we saw many defecting from other parties to the Unity Party because of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s popularity, believing that there, they could get their needs met.
One basic thing any good politician can defect from one party to the other for is a difference in political ideology, a set of ethical ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, and/or large group that explains how society should work, and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.
Are people leaving political parties for ideological differences? If yes, why don’t they explain to the public the actual differences and necessities for leaving? As we live with this political tradition now, it is necessary that electorates properly assess politicians to establish their cause(s) for defecting. Throughout the time we monitored the US election, there was not a day when you heard of Republicans defecting from their party despite the dissenting views a lot of them held against Donald Trump. The will of the delegates in choosing who they wanted prevailed, and all other defeated candidates conceded and gave way to Trump to face Hillary Clinton. Defecting from one party to the other as it is constantly done in our political system suggests more inconsistency and deceptive intent, rather than genuine ideological differences.