MONROVIA: Almost two weeks after the National Elections Commission (NEC) officially announced the commencement of the campaign period for the ensuing 2023 general elections, majority of the political parties and their candidates as well as independent candidates who registered to contest for various positions are still testing waters, ostensibly slowed down by the huge logistics required to run a two month campaign across the country, with some contemplating on withdrawing from the process; The Analyst reports.
The euphoria that greeted the announcement of a huge number of political parties and candidates who have been cleared to participate in the pending October 10, 2023 elections, which suggested that the process will be keenly contested, thereby leaving an impression that there will be no clear front runners may have died down just few days after the electoral body officially opened campaign with majority of the political parties and candidates going through serious challenges raising the much needed funds and logistics to execute the democratic competition.
When NEC announced the final listing of political parties and candidates duly qualified as per the guidelines, 20 political parties presented Presidential candidates out of the 47 officially registered parties. The remaining parties didn’t present presidential candidates but fielded candidates for legislative seats. By extension, a total of 1,030 candidates are now available for contest ranging from the presidency to legislators. It was expected that all of them would have been alert once the campaign commencement was flagged, but it didn’t happen.
According to reports across the country, only a few political parties, mainly the bigger institutions which include the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), the Unity Party (UP) and the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) were able to kick off their campaigns along with their candidates in the various counties. It was also reported that few other independent candidates who came prepared to confront any rival, be it with a political party or independent, were all out on the first day of the commencement of the campaign.
President George Manneh Weah kicked off his re-election bid on Saturday, August 5, 2023, followed by series of tours in Districts 7, 8, 9, 10, 14 16 and others in Montserrado County in sequence, amidst jubilation from CDCians and supporters as well as simultaneous launch in the various counties by the local chapters of CDC.
While the Unity Party used the day in Montserrado County to share flyers and other campaign materials, reports from across the country said the party launched its activities in other counties.
The CPP of Alexander B. Cummings launched its own campaign on the same day with a reassurance message from Cummings about fixing the country when elected President on October 10, 2023. His running mate, Cllr. Charlyne Brumskine was in Buchanan to launch the campaign in the Bassa land.
The party was forced to suspend its campaign last week as mark of respect for the death of its national chairman, Senator Daniel Flomo Naatehn of Gbarpolu County who died in India where he had gone to undergo medical attention.
Reports by our reporters who visited the National headquarters of the various parties in Monrovia and our correspondents across the country, said there is a high possibility that the tempo in the race may only be maintained by the three political parties (CDC, UP and CPP) because of their financial war chest and their national spread, something that the smaller parties are struggling to offset.
At the national headquarters of one of the 10 newest parties that were officially registered and certified by NEC which brought the total number of political parties to 47, the moment was a far cry from the atmosphere that greeted the certification of the party when partisans had lengthy hours celebrating until late hours in the night. Its political leader and standard bearer and a few of his lieutenants were in “crucial and strategic meeting charting the way forward” and at the end of the meeting, a faint response to our reporter’s question if they were ready for the race implied that things were not going on as planned.
“We just concluded the meeting and from what we received as cost to run this full campaign is something far beyond what we planned. We are a young party made up of young people who are passionate about offering sound leadership to this country but as lofty as our thoughts are, we are deeply handicapped by the lack of funds.
“We are looking at the option of putting up a basket of funds to focus on a few legislative seats that we can win and forget about fielding a presidential ticket and the 23 legislative seats we wanted to contest. Maybe we will be looking at only 5 seats in the leeward counties and forget about the other 18 seats and the presidential ticket. This is the realistic option if we must be part of the next government”, Simon Gayewuluton Sr, the public relations officer said.
Some other smaller parties commenting on the predicament they found themselves said everything boiled down to the level of treachery and insincerity among the politicians in the country because they had reached agreement with some politicians to give them tickets on white ballots in exchange for cash, ranging from USD10,000 to USD40,000 and other logistics like pick-ups, motorbikes, fuels, among others, but reneged on all the agreements after they sealed their nominations and were certified by NEC as candidates.
“This is shocking and this was what we were trying to guide and guard ourselves against. Some of these politicians came to us after being denied by their parties; they came begging and promised to make some money available along with cars, motor bikes and another purse to take care of our staff. But as I am standing talking to you not a dime came from these people, about seven of them, who all on the average promised to contribute at least USD20,000 each with cars and motorbikes.
“Now that none has been forthcoming it has put us in a very strange corner. Where do we begin from here? How are we going to take part in the race? If it was in the second round, at least there was to be a trade-off but nothing has started and we have been short changed. I don’t see us going through this process even if NEC goes ahead to put our candidates on the ballot”, a frustrated party executive member who did not want his name to be put in the papers said last night.
In similar vein a senatorial candidate from the North Central part of the country who pleaded not to be named said he was contemplating on writing to NEC to withdraw his candidature after his main backers in the diaspora told him that they were channeling their resources to other areas of concern in their county and urged him to seek alternative sources to fund his campaign.
“I least expected this from them after I had travelled to them on four different occasions, two of them were during their national conventions from 2018. They allowed me to go through all these things and only to tell me I should look for other ways to help my campaign because what they planned to use for me, they are undertaking a project in the county. This is a blow and I will decide on withdrawing by next week”, he said.
As the puzzle around the participation of the parties remain a mystery, checks by The Analyst came up with some startling revelation that some of the smaller parties were organized through the support they garnered from some of the bigger parties as a way of increasing their support base and as well as cutting in the numbers of their opponents in some counties or constituencies around the country.
An executive of one of the parties confided in The Analyst yesterday that they were actually funded by one of the biggest parties in the country as an auxiliary as well as an institution to fight a proxy war for them in one of the vote-rich counties. He said the idea was to be active in that county and recruit members since that particular party does not have a face in the county.
“It is not because we do not have money that you are seeing us being dormant for now. We are waiting for our principal, one of the main parties in the country that helped us to go through the registration process. That is why we are not fielding any presidential candidate; only a few legislative seats.
“We just concluded a meeting with them last night and they told us they will get back to us on or before the 25th of August to release our campaign fund and by then you will see us in full swing”, he said to the amazement of our reporter.
Political pundits who spoke to The Analyst about the inability of some of the parties to run an effective campaign in these elections said the situation is an indictment of the flaws in the country’s electoral laws and the weak requirements for party registration in the country.
“It has come back to haunt us and we have said it time without numbers. The proliferation of political parties in the country does not guarantee any democracy. It just shows how unserious we are. We need stringent requirements for parties to follow which will reduce the number of parties contesting.
“Of what use is it to our democracy if we have 47 parties and most of them only operate on paper? No structure, no support base, no verifiable sources of funding, and you think people will take you seriously? It is a shame that most of them are dormant in these elections because they do not even have a dime to campaign. It’s so sad”, a renowned critic, Wilson Robertson Weah Jr, told The Analyst last night.