EDITORIAL: As Liberia Moves to Essentially Two-Party System, Extreme Tolerance Must Run in Every Citizen’s DNA

TRUE, THE CONSTITUTION of Liberia guarantees multiparty system, meaning a political order in which a multiplicity of political parties compete for national leadership. And, yes, it is true that such an order provides an ecosystem or a political marketplace where the electorate decides on the rise and fall of political parties instead of a mechanical restriction put in place by law. But the clearest true and fact is also that Liberia is literally shrinking or folding into a two-party system since the last 18 years, particularly at presidential levels. The political aisle runs between the Congress for Democratic Chainge (CDC) which metamorphosed into the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) on the one hand and the Unity Party on the party. Even where legislative candidates emerge on multiparty arrangements, it all often turns out that most of the victorious lawmakers begin to do political business largely on one side of the divide of the two major political parties.

WHILE THE EVOLVING two-party system appears to satisfy the concerns of many Liberians who contend that such a system is the most appropriate and necessary political order because it prevents too many political parties in the country, some of which are merely based on ethnicity, and confuses the electorate, let it be stated also that it comes with its own headaches—disadvantages.  A two party system divides the population into two extreme halves. And because it is void of, and does not entertain, a middle ground, or an alternative, it often fans the flames of political attrition and isolationism. Contestations between only two parties can be extremely tense; emotions generated from those competitions can often be uncouthly displayed.

THE EVIDENCE IS not difficult to point to in contemporary Liberia which has witnessed quite a dastardly violence, or reciprocatory violence –‘you do me, I do you’ — attacks, between forces of the two major political parties. And the evidence is gradually maturing in its consistency, frequency and gravity when one looks at how partisans from each continue to fall to the swords of rival party’s supporters. Tolerance, evidently, is evaporating from the psyche.

POLITICAL COMPETITION IS about, and it strongly requires, tolerance—tolerating criticism, tolerating defeat, tolerating gender, tolerating race, tolerating the right to join a political party and have a diverse political view while sharing the same space, be it a country, a community, a house, an office, etc.

AS THE COUNTRY gradually divides itself alone CDC and UP, the headache of two-party system has set in, and this calls for extreme tolerance on the part of every citizen, every political leader, and every partisan. Defeat, criticism, opposing political views and all that come with politics, particularly in a two-party system, are naturally difficult to accept, but it becomes mandatory and imperative for all to heed and accept because sustained peace and stability for all requires it; development and progress in a country requires it; law and order requires it; nationalism and patriotism requires it.

WE SAY ALL this because the recent waves of retributive attacks in the country, which have resulted into deaths and death-threatening injuries of citizens, suggest that tolerance deficit has pervaded in our political psyche. It means Liberians, despite the little progress in enriching our democratic credential, are still found wanting of the basic attitude and tenet of democracy—tolerance. And this begs for a rallying crusade across the national mosaic, the need for all and sundry to beat their swords into ploughshares, the need to embrace reconciliation and more so the need for extreme tolerance.

LET US ALL be reminded that democracy—particularly the two-party system we espouse—would either be an illusion or a “den of chaos” invited upon ourselves—if we failed to adjust our compliance mode with the dictates of its nature, which is tolerance. How many of our young people would be hacked to death, how many of our private properties must be destroyed, before politicians and their supporters have a reset of their political temperament? Do we not see that our politics of political retributions are turning into and patterning after jihadism? Who knows what the coming years of political contestations hold for this nation!

INDEED, WE PLEAD for tolerance on all sides, and many civil society organizations, including the church and democracy crusaders, must join us to raise our voices in the call for extreme tolerance in the political culture. The is the most plausible bulwark of peace, stability and democracy.

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