Liberian Journalist Patrick Hannah, a strong supporter of Amb. Joseph N. Boakai, Wraps on 2023 Elections



Exactly 24 months from now, Liberians will be going to the polls for the country’s fourth back-to-back Presidential election. Looking back at Liberia’s long history, successive democratic elections have, no doubt, but the country on track for enhancing democracy, at least from an outer perspective. The 2020 mid-term senatorial elections have put a united opposition in high momentum going into 2023. The ruling party is nervous and scared, obviously so. Momentum is EVERYTHING in politics. However, political pundits believe that the opposition itself, is at the brink of a split and it’s just a matter of time now. Many believe that only a united opposition can beat Weah. I too, see this as the best way to give President Weah a convincing defeat. But what happens in the worse case scenario if the CPP splits up? Here are five reasons why I think even a divided opposition could beat Weah:

1. Precedence: It has happened before. Mr. Weah himself, became President after frantic efforts to bring the “big guns” in the opposition together failed. In 2017, Weah, Brumskine, PYJ, Urey, and Cummings held series of discussions aimed at collaborating to take on the then ruling UP’s Joseph Boakai. Talks soon broke down when Weah insisted that he could not go as number two to any of those in the room. “There is no way we are going to allow our Standard Bearer to go second to Brumskine. Election is about numbers, and we have the numbers”- said CDC’s Chairman Nat McGill in an interview with the Capital Insider News Magazine. Samuel Tweah, a stalwart of the CDC said “it’s not a merger, it is about opposition parties looking to collaborate with the best ticket for 2017. Ambassador Weah must head the ticket”.

As a result, the opposition divided. Weah, Brumskine, Cummings, Urey, and Prince Johnson all contested separately. But surprisely, Weah formed a smaller coalition with newly formed LPDP and former ruling party NPP, in which they agreed that he should head the ticket. Liberians wanted a change and settled for the best option that could numerically rival the ruling Unity Party.Today, Weah is President. This samething could be replicated. In the event where the CPP does not hold, there could be “different alignments”. Like 2017, Liberians want a change. Those alignments could favor Cummings, or Boakai, that is if they do not agree to work together.

2. CDC is a like a cult: It’s pushing to five years in office now and the ruling party still operates like cult, a clique. If you’re not viewed as a hard core loyalists, you can join or pledge support to the party all you want, but you will still be considered an outsider, an opportunist, or a spy especially if you were not there during the struggle days. As such, the ruling party has done little to expand its base to conform with changing times. Even football clubs that win European leagues, still go on to buy more players and those players automatically come in as starters on the team. For example: ask those who have joined the CDC since its victory in 2017. They’re either still hanging around waiting to be included or having low level inclusions far below their expectations. Pledging support to the CDC will be a waste of time now. Example: Jeremiah Sulunteh, former Ambassador to the U.S. was made to wear a red beret and sing muyan, muyan songs at a welcoming ceremony to the CDC. Till date, he’s yet to get a job even though there are vacant vital posts available that commensurate with his status. Currently, there are some vacant ambassadorial posts. There is no Ambassador to France, none at the United Nations, etc.. And Sulunteh is right there. Why? Trust issues( maybe after this post, he could be called up). My young and experienced colleagues( absolutely no disrespect) Jacob and Urias, as resourceful and experienced as they are, one former assistant minister, another former Deputy EPA boss, are only left to defend Tweah and Thomas Fallah respectively and post their pictures. Had this been under Ellen, the expertise of these assets would have been tapped into in a significant way that will benefit the government. Lewis Brown and Eugene Nagbe pledged support to Ellen and became Ministers. What that did was a political move to reassure other opposition figures contemplating on doing same that their support would be valued. Besides, imagine a whole government is sending a delegation to strengthen ties with the U.S. and the mayor of Monrovia, largely inexperienced in diplomacy, is a key part of the delegation. One would ask, what about the Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Fahnbulleh if not the foreign minister? Why not on the delegation? When you close things up too much, you close the doors for others to enter. You see disagreements as enmity rather than opposition.

3. CDC has lost its prime base- the Dillon effect: CPP’s Abe Darius Dillon with little resources, defiled the odds to successively dislodge CDC( the entire coalition), from the most populated vote rich Montserrado County. This is no small achievement! In 2005, 2009( with Geraldine), 2011, 2014( with Weah), and 2017, CDC consistently won vote rich Montserrado. In 2011, Ellen spent millions in Montserrado but came second to CDC that spent less. The son of Ellen was massively flogged in Montserrado. All of the sudden, CDC has made two attempts to “recapture”( to use the party’s words) Montserrado but to no avail. It is over! They’ve lost it. The CDC is now scrambling for strongholds all over. No matter what, CDC has always won two counties as strongholds: Montserrado and Grand Gedeh, not even Grand Kru surprisely. In 2011, Ellen beat the CDC in Grand Kru but never won Montserrado and Grand Gedeh. With 24 months to go, what is happening right now is the Coalition( CDC) is struggling for strongholds. They still have a hold on Grand Gedeh, they’ve lost Montserrado. That is why key stalwarts of the party are making regular trips to Lofa, Nimba, Bong and other counties in an attempt to establish new strongholds. From my vintage point, I do not see it happening in 24 months.

4. The Coalition is itself, divided: There is a potentially explosive internal wrangling within the ruling coalition. A split is also imminent. What is keeping it quiet a bit for now is fear. The other parties do not feel treated fairly. Jewel is certainly not pleased over her role during these four years. There are last minute attempts to appease her but internally, she knows what’s best. The NPP, a constituent member of the coalition, has been reviving its presence in Bong, Montserrato and other counties. Watchout! The LPDP is also not feeling good. The political leader Alex Tyler has been on the sidelines for four years and counting. Expect the unexpected soon!

5. Underperformance and the first-time voters effect: Even with all the efforts Ellen made to bring Liberia back on course, she could only get a little over 40% of the votes in the first round of 2011. Pundits argue that Ellen’s first term was the better of two. Yet, she could not win in the first round with all the resources available at her disposal. The ruling party has been rocked with controversies over the last four years. From massive corruption to the acquisition of properties, to poor diplomatic standing, to the lack of adherence to the rule of law, to failed promises( Coastal highway etc.), the administration continues to struggle. We’re almost in year five, a year many describe as the subtle lame duck year, and yet the administration is still struggling to get Washington’s attention. Imagine high profile officials are overly impressed by pictures, yet not a single policy commitment in favor of the administration. In year four, a delegation is still lobbying to get Washington’s attention. Unlike Ellen who attracted Airforce One carrying the U.S. President to Liberia in three years. Unlike the new Zambian President, who is currently guest of the White House. In International Relations, there is the “wait and see” period, and there is the “lame duck” period. The “wait and see” period usually happens in year one of a new administration to allow it to show commitment to internationally accepted norms. 24 months to another election, I don’t see anything significant happening with a twist in Washington. Another thing is the opposition will push the government beginning next year, to talk politics. It will be a huge distraction from governance. Another thing is the first-time voter’s effect. This is largely the internet-savvy group. Chances are that a whopping majority in this group are not likely to support an incumbent that has successfully been mimicked for all the right reasons. They did not watch him playing football, they’re not going to be excited about that.

In conclusion, even though I think a united CPP is the best way to make President Weah a one-term President, it is still possible for smaller coalitions and alliances with unity, to get the job done. I support a united opposition. But I will not jitter if it doesn’t work. It is not impossible, nothing is! Any of the opposition candidates could emerge in a possible second round( if there is going to be) and COULD win like it happened in 2017. But again, the opposition can get the job easier by keeping itself together rather than struggling to win.”

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