MONROVIA: Since 2005, political competitions at elections have got expressed in the ability of rival parties to pull the hugest of crowds possible at rallies and other important gatherings. Year by year, election by election, the situation has gained traction and acceptability in the Liberian political space, not only because more and more citizens have eschewed political apathy but also because in most cases the crowds have actually turned into or translated into corresponding votes at the ballot box. In 2023, the tendency which has come to be known a “crowd politics” is not receding at all; in fact, it has intensified, generating tense debates amongst pundits, including international observers, as to who has so far pulled the large assemblies of citizens at rallies. After the two political archrivals, the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and the former ruling Unity Party launched their campaigns on separate dates, and at which times both characteristically pulled “human tsunamis” never seen before in the nation’s capital, Monrovia, the verdict is out: independent pundits say the CDC prevails and brings to an end the debate on crowd politics. The Analyst reports.
Independent pundits and observers concur that the ruling the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) tops the main opposition Unity Party in the size of crowd that attended the official launch of their respective campaigns.
The CDC (2018 – 2023) and the Unity Party (2005 – 2017) are the two frontrunners in this year’s elections at which each is fighting to succeed itself back to power after the former has served six years and the latter 12 years.
The melting pot for the two rivals’ show of crowd power and subsequently capture state power has been Montserrado County, the political and economic capital, Monrovia, and most populated. It has the population of 1,144,806 and electoral constituents of over nine hundred thousand.
The prism used for the verdict is the Antoinette Tubman Stadium where CDC and UP gathered their partisans and supporters to launch their respective 2023 electoral campaigns. The CDC launched on Thursday, September 7, and the UP did on Sunday, September 17—ten days apart.
Independent observers of the two national events are unanimous in their decision and basis for giving the CDC a huge edge over the UP, after making extensive use of result oriented analyses.
Issues intently observed include partisans’ occupation of seats at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium, whether they copiously filled all gates, and the playing pitched; the degree of access attendees had to the stadium, meaning crowds surrounding the facility and how hard or easy it was for one to enter from streets leading to all gates.
Observations and analyses also took cue from available photos in real time from drones capturing aerial view of not only the venue and its immediate surroundings but also the whole of central Monrovia particularly major outlets from Bushrod Island and Sinkor.
They also included turnouts that could not gain access to the venue, the flow of tragic and human movement, the time of preparation after launch event, amongst other things.
What both events shared in raining day, and in all fairness devotees of both sides braved the odd weather.
In contrast, however, the CDC launched on a regular working day when working people devoted to the party, both private and public, had to get out of work before joining their colleagues, and even at that it was not a national holiday declared.
Thursday, September 7, 2023, a regular day in Monrovia, like all other working days is full of busy schedules for every citizen, be it in the employ of the government, the private sector or being involved in private/personal business. The mass of the Liberian workers are petit business people that would otherwise not forego their business interest for anything else. The CDC must have lost some of its real time voters from coming out on this possibility.
Yet, on that day, against all the odds, partisans and supporters of CDC thronged the streets and marched from various locations, often from far distances to the ATS in huge numbers and walked back to their respective destinations.
Whether it was Lynch Street from the Broad Street, or UN Drive from Randall Street end, or Center Street, all other nearby streets were nearly impassible all through their lengths. Drones photos showed they were bustling and jammed throughout the day.
The CDC Day, or aka Blue Tsunami, practically brought Monrovia and by extension Montserrado County to a standstill, turning a very busy working day to a holiday.
The gridlock from both vehicular and human movement lasted from the early morning hours to as far as early Friday morning on September 8, 2023.
The impact of the turnout also affected business activities virtually during the weekend.
Furthermore, according to the independent observers, another actual weight of the CDC crowd was shown in the fact that by 10am Thursday, September 7, the first troops of partisans and supporters had filled the ATS, and announcements at that early hours came out warning those yet to arrive in Central Town to stay home and watch and/listen via the mass media. By the same hour and up to 3pm, the UP crowd was yet to hide the greenish ground of the ATS.
Whether it was it on their way to the ATS or back to their homes, drones picked the images of CDCians, Weahcians, other supporters stretching tens of kilometers in jostling formations.
The UP launched its campaign on Sunday, September 17, 2023, a day in Liberia which is observed as almost a national holiday. The party had the advantage of having people available who are not going to work or doing any other business that could distract them from attending any event.
According to independent pundits, the timing of the UP campaign launch also helped church goers to return from their active service and joined the fray later on in the day as many people started to converge at ATS well in late afternoon starting from 2pm.
Besides, the UP event came ten days after the CDC conducted theirs, an interval of almost two weeks that gave the UPists time to learn from the CDC launch and properly plan and execute their program. They had adequate time to account for some of the lessons learnt from the ruling party’s preparation and how to make the necessary adjustments for a grand success.
Unfortunately, however, neutral observers indicated that nothing new was brought into the picture by the UP, as it seemed according to them CDC had better organization which included but not limited to how their various auxiliaries coordinated their activities, controlled their members both before, during and after the program.
Access to the ATS by vehicles is another area that the CDC did better in terms of space availability, a key factor that determined the actual number of people who turned out.
The number of people that turned out on the day the CDC launched was so huge that there were no spaces for cars to park. There was a vehicular advisory issued by the Traffic Division of the Liberia National Police on routes to the venue and areas that should not be accessed by vehicles. Vehicles coming from all ends of the city stopped as far as the Monrovia City Hall, Broad, Buchanan, Ashmun, Carey, Newport and Benson Streets. Only President Weah’s vehicle had access to reach the ATS.
On the other hand, during the UP program, many vehicles were packed around the stadium, such as the UN Drive and the Lynch streets and people still move freely up to the arrival and departure of the Standard Bearer, Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai.
This space availability where cars were packed along the streets and at the same time people moving in and around the venue showed a limited number of attendees as compared to the CDC.
Drone footages capturing the UP launch showed many streets, in fact all streets, of Monrovia around the ATS virtually empty. The concentration of the UP crowds was the immediate vicinity of the ATS, such as Rally Town Market to Intersection of Monrovia Central Prison on the UN Drive unlike the CDC swarms of people that extended up Broad Street and Camp Johnson Road.
According to the independent observers, the bulk of the UP crowd was in the stadium while conversely during the CDC launch the crowd of the jam-parked stadium was just five percent of the crowds outside and beyond the ATS.
Thus, most of those who have analyzed the two crowds are unanimous in their findings that the CDC scored it big again above the UP.
The number of CDCians that turned out and sat on seats at ATS and still occupied all the available spaces on both the perimeter around the field and the main pitch of ATS as exceptional.
On the other hand, a good number of the seats were not occupied by the UP partisans but they occupied the perimeters around the field and the main pitch which suggests that their numerical strength could not match that of the CDC.
Pictures obtained from drones clearly showed the spaces at the background of the crowd who were on the pitch singing and dancing while the program lasted.
Comparative evidence of crowd attendance before, during and after the program showed that CDC had larger attendance than the UP. On the day of the CDC launch, as of 12 noon, the city and its environs were turned BLUE and can be visibly seen in communities and streets. The Stadium by then was almost filled to capacity.
When the program got underway, all the nearby streets, such as Clay, Camp Johnson Road, Lynch, Ashmun, Broad, Benson, Carey, Newport, Gurley, Buchanan, Center streets, etc. were all filled and those places were boiling with human activities as entertainment centers were filled to capacities.
Pundits found out that most partisans and supporters were even still trooping out to ATS from far off when the program was on and despite persistent calls for people to stay back as ATS was now filled beyond capacity did not yield any result.
On September 7, when the program ended, a good number of people who could not easily make their way back stayed behind until late hours of the night, partying around while communities never slept until the following day. The after-program activities were all over the city, accounting for the huge participation of partisans.
During the UP program, besides the ATS, only a few streets partisans and supporters of UP could be seen mainly on Lynch, Benson, Carey, UN Drive and some parts of Broad Streets. After the program, the venue and a large part of the main city became empty virtually in less than 30 minutes save for the delays caused by the flooding on Lynch streets.
Not much of after program activities occurred in most parts of the city and other communities.