By Nyankor Matthew
In December 2014 the Israeli Labor Party, Hatnuah party and Green Movement party formed a center-left political alliance called the Zionist Union to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. By March 2015 (within three months) the alliance had established a government in waiting. Individuals for the positions of Finance Minister and defense Minister among others, were named announced to Israeli voters. I note with emphasis that within three months, the Zionist Union Party was able to concretize its political ambition.
Though the alliance was formed to unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu, they were guided by a common ideology and platform that focused on several issues such as reducing the cost of living, halting construction of settlements, reducing cost of health care, narrowing the gap between rich and poor Israeli and other critical social and political issues.
For months, Liberia opposition political parties have taken to the airwaves, print and electronic media to convince the Liberian people that in order to defeat the Unity Party come 2017, opposition parties must “come together” to ensure that the Unity Party does not maintain state power.
It is a common understanding that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, but common interest. It is also a common understanding that political alliances/coalitions and mergers are not uncommon in both emerging and developed democracies. However, the mechanism for success – especially for political parties in developing democracies – is the herculean task. It is equally a herculean task for our opposition parties.
The political “marriage of convince” that opposition political parties are attempting to create is neither convincing nor clearly defined with approximately thirteen months until the 2017 election. Over one year ago in May 2015, formal collaborative talk was officially established by opposition political parties in Gbarnga City, Bong County. Since that meeting, the opposition continues to discuss and talk with-out tangible results to move their “coalition” or collaboration forward. Fourteen months after their Bong County meeting, opposition leaders again met at Senator Weah’s home in July 2017 for more collaboration talk that also yielded nothing. The recent meeting (September 2017) of opposition leaders in Ganta City, Nimba County produced a Communiqué, which is a fancy word for an official announcement on an issue. Again, this meeting failed to yield tangible results. Almost two years after their meeting in Bong County, the opposition continues to discuss, and discuss, and discuss; and have thus far being unable to concretize their ambition in forming a “grand coalition” to defeat Vice President Baokai/UP.
First Thing First
What type of “political marriage” does the opposition political parties intend to form? Do they intend to form a merger or an alliance? Generally, a political merger is a consolidation of two or more political entities into a single entity, where as a political alliance – which is also referred to as a political coalition, or political bloc - is an agreement for cooperation between different political parties on common political agenda for contesting an election. The opposition parties continue to speak of a “collaboration”, yet from the outside looking in, the collaborating parties are not exactly clear on other factors on which the collaboration hinges on, other than coming together to defeat Vice President Baokai/UP. Critical discussions on how compromises will be made on ideological differences (if any) and political platforms are yet to be brought to the forefront of this collaboration discussion.
The National Democratic institute Oslo Center for peace and human rights publication titled “Coalition: A guide for Political parties”, recommends five steps for coalition building; and those steps are: 1) Developing a party strategy, 2) Negotiating a coalition, 3) Getting started, 4) Working in coalition, and 5) Drawing lessons learned. For purposes of this article, I am most interested in four of the five steps presented in the publication.
In step one of its five steps, the publication recommends the development of a strategy that will lay the ground work for successful negotiation. The publication suggest that “the more effort parties place on this step, the more likely they are to identify strategic partners, negotiate a good deal and avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with coalition-building.”
In step two of the process, the publication recommends that each party must prepare a strategy as suggested in step one; and based on the strategy that each party prepares, the parties can now come together to negotiate and “hopefully reach agreement on the terms for the coalition.” It is recommended in step three that “as negotiation begins to wrap-up, the agreement between political parties needs to be formally sealed. This includes finalizing a written agreement, securing formal approval of the deal from the relevant structures of the coalition’s member parties and announcing the coalition details to the general public."
In step four it is recommended that “as the coalition partners begin working to implement their agreement, they will need to maintain good relations by continuing efforts to increase or sustain trust and communication among the member parties. Each party will also need to strike a balance between respecting its obligations to the coalition and maintaining its individual identity.”
The opposition seems to be spending more time on the latter part of step four, which is maintaining good relations and increasing or sustaining trust among each other and stroking each other’s’ egos rather than being decisive and grabbing the bull by the horn.
In the final analysis, I foresee mergers and alliances of different parties within the current collaborating parties. It is clear that he incumbent, Vice president Boakai is the candidate to defeat; and if the opposition wants be taken seriously, their ambition must be concretize, egos must be secondary to the greater agenda or objectives, and strategic decisions must be made by January 2017.
About the Author: Ms. Nyankor Matthew can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org