MONROVIA: The quest by politicians for elective positions in the country has become an issue for public concern when the National Elections Commission(NEC) released the provisional lists of individuals who submitted their nominations to contest for various positions in the ensuing general elections of October 10, 2023 which showed a total of 1,030 persons registered to compete for just 30 vacancies created as the result of the expiration of the tenure of the various occupants of the positions including President George Manneh Weah, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, the 15 senators and 73 representatives from the political subdivisions of the country.
According to the provisional listing of the candidates, there are 20 presidential candidates, 102 senatorial aspirants and 888 individuals indicated their interest to contest for the house of representatives.
Comparatively, this year’s figure is a negligible increase of just 4 persons from the 2017 figure where a total of 1,024 candidates including 20 presidential candidates with their running mates and 984 representatives. While there will be senators contesting in this year, there were no senatorial candidates in 2017.
Further checks by The Analyst have it that there were more eligible voters registered in 2023 which was put at 2,471,617 voters as compared to 2017 when the figure was recorded at 2, 189,629. Political watchers have attributed the sharp increase in the level of vigorous awareness by the National Elections Commission (NEC), its partners that included the international development partners, the civil society, the media as well as the direct involvement of the aspirants themselves and political parties who were eager to increase their support bases which could lead to eventual victories at the polls.
While some have lauded the increase in the number of people seeking for elective position as an indication of the increase in the desire of citizens to go into government to serve their people, others are of the view that the increase did not address the fundamental issue of women participation in leadership and public service in the country. For instance, of the 1,030 aspirants, only 159 are females which represents only 15% contrasted against their male counterparts which is 871, representing 85%.
By the same token, only 199 candidates are contesting as independent candidates, representing 19% while 831 aspirants are being presented by collectively by the 46 registered political parties which is 81%.
Some political pundits have taken a swipe at the increase in the number of persons scrambling to occupy just the 90 seats that are vacant, and see it as an indictment that more is needed to be done to discourage such huge number registering interest as it does not add on to the expected quality that is expected from people who should be elected to positions of trust in the country.
“There is nothing to cheer about in what I see as a show of shame. The huge number shows that we are not serious about providing quality leadership service to the people because it seems to be the benchmark we should be looking at is discouraging.
“There is no way we would have had this high number if we have had mechanism put in place to set the bar high so that only the serious and capable people can be the only people who will take a shot at any of the positions”, Samuel Toehgah Sr, a public commentator told The Analyst.
A Boston based Liberian businessman who pleaded not to be identified in the papers and who also criticized the rush for public service jobs by some who obviously do not have anything to offer the country said the situation has to do with the lack of job opportunities in the country especially in the private sectors and contended that the public sector has sadly become the floodgate where just anybody wants to pick a chance.
“What has happened to the country with this huge number of people literally trying their luck to get into public service is a testimony that we have to do something to develop the private sector that will provide jobs for the bulk of the citizens. It is because opportunities seem not to exist for a robust private sector that has made almost everyone to find their way into government though they are not up to the task”, he said.
Most of the stakeholders including Liberia’s international development partners have submitted that there is an urgent need for more tight requirements to be inserted in the provision of the electoral laws that will allow a small manageable and serious group of people who have what it takes to be in public service to scale through and keep away the multitude of others who are taking chances with the destiny of the country.
“We have to be serious in this country and call for more stringent requirement that can only allow the best and capable people to seek for elective positions and that should include the procedures for registering political parties, minimum academic and real work history requirement for aspirants as well as other determinants that can be taken as a benchmark for who should be elected or seek for elective positions”, a social critic told The Analyst last night.