The ‘Mishandling’ of 2017 Coalitions

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Reports from Capitol Hill are unsurprising. With two years to go before the 2017 General and Presidential Elections, presidential and legislative hopefuls are already courting one another on the street corners of Capitol Hill and beyond, hoping to seal the nation’s fate into their own hands.

Legislative leaders, despairing of their own prospects, are scrambling to massage George Weah’s ego for a spot on CDC’s ticket; while our Vice President is rumored to be cozying up to former warlord Prince Johnson, to garner the large Nimba vote.

To be clear, we are cautiously encouraged by the coalition building trend. Our political space is oversaturated with parties bearing no policy platform, coining long acronyms and designing ugly logos (come on, UP… a chicken?).

Yet, despite the depopulation process, our system remains structurally weak, with our parties uniformly dependent on strong personalities, rather than ideas, principles and a clear vision.

For example, what does UP stand for, outside of Ellen’s development agenda? What holds the party together? Clearly, precious little, as friction has prevailed within their ranks for years, culminating in Sen. Oscar Coopera’s resignation. And what does the CDC stand for? The downtrodden? Well, clarity of representation is only half the pie in politics. Development? Tell us how; list your priorities, your strategy to garner legislative support; your guiding principles for leadership.

Once party vision and principles are identified, they help to determine ‘how’ a party intends to foster development. It beats the path and establishes clear boundaries for leaders and followers alike.

But our leaders are not interested in that. They are busy playing a numbers game, joining Lofa to Nimba and Montserrado, to pick up votes. They push to split up Sinoe and give the Sarpoes tribe and county status. They tap a prominent, dashing young Muslim to steal the youth vote from Weah. On and on.

Truth be told, if this band of male politicians were smart, they would consider running alongside a woman and thereby increasing their hopes of nationwide support. But that idea is not trending now, so we will have to wait and see.

Whatever the final choices will be in 2017, Liberty Party leader Charles Brumskine is right about one thing: the approach to political coalition, across the board, has been “mishandled.”

In order to set our political system right, each party must reassess its constitution, core values, and vision. Having strengthened these three elements, each party must reassess the mix of personalities that form its membership and especially its leadership; and determine whether these people’s
values are in line with the party’s vision. This is where the strength of personality leadership comes in handy, to make the tough decisions and purify the party. While political risks abound in this reform exercise, it is direly needed – especially if we are to transform our deeply tainted system.

Once each party has cleaned house, then coalition building can begin. Each party will have a firm set of standards governing their interaction with any other group. Without institutional integrity and clear parameters for cooperation, these coalitions will be doomed at the outset. And who benefits? Not us. Not the people.

We remain open minded, and hope for results of the upcoming election that will defy the trend that has prevailed since our nation’s inception. But we suspect that the pattern will stand, and that our political parties will remain white elephants with no meat: no policy platform, no ideology, no scruples, and no real vision for this country. And politics, that misguided matchmaker who seems to have lost her mind, will keep marrying totally incompatible partners and divorcing them for one goal – to ruin this country wholesale.

But there is hope, and it lies in the deliberate efforts of political parties and the general citizenry to change our perspective and demand more from ourselves. For many sensible citizens, who are fed up with GOL nonsense, it means getting reengaged in the process. Yes, people have work to do, and it does not include listening out for George Weah’s next verbal blunder (by the way, can he please fire his speechwriters?). But we should care, and we should start early to pressure our political leaders to articulate their policy platform, their values, and their vision. Push them to show us their track record. Give them hell! And do it now, so that we separate the men from the boys, and the women from the girls, early on.

And for our esteem political aspirants (incumbent or no), if you do not think you can win and keep your dignity and integrity at the same time, then don’t bother. Save yourselves and us the embarrassment.

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