The Dilemma Facing The Liberian Opposition Parties

By Jesse B. Ghoah

The Perspective

January 10, 2002

About a month ago, I wrote an article in the ‘The Perspective’ titled What Election 2003? Since the printing of that article, I have reflected on the list of ten reasons I gave that Charles Taylor will not allow for a fair and free election in 2003. I have also come to some conclusions following the printing of that article. I have come to the conclusion that Charles Taylor just might prove me wrong, by allowing for a fair and free election in Liberia in 2003. Whether Charles Taylor allows a fair and free election in 2003 or not, he has nothing to lose. He is in a “Win/Win” situation. I will speak to the Win/win situation later.

I don’t know what the opposition party leaders are thinking right now, but I would be worried if I were in their position. Let’s look at some of the barriers and obstacles to be worried about as 2003 approaches:

1. campaign funding. Right now, I don’t see any opposition leader who hopes to raise enough campaign funds to compete against Charles Taylor’s unlimited resources. Remember, There are no distinctions between the Liberian Treasury and Charles Taylor’s personal finances; they are all one and the same.

2. Fairness in the campaign. How will the opposition leaders get their messages across to the Liberian people, without access to the Liberian airwaves or in the absence of a free press? Charles Taylor is saying right now that access to the Liberian airwaves is a privilege and not a right. I guess what he means is that he is the only one who has the right to the Liberian airwaves and therefore the only one who can grant privileges. A president of Liberia is bigger than life.

3. Guaranteeing the safety of the candidates. If the war is still in place, come 2003, I am 100% sure that Charles Taylor will tell the opposition leaders that he can not guarantee anybody’s safety with the war on. What that means also is that the campaign for president of Liberia will be confined to Monrovia and its environs only; which also means that those candidates who are not known outside of Monrovia, can forget it. I understand that in the 1997 Presidential election, Charles Taylor went around the country telling the people that Ellen Johnson was a white woman, and not a true Liberian. I am quite sure that lie may have had some impact on the voting of the people.

4. Voting eligibility. Just what are the eligibility requirements for voters in Liberia? How many people voted in the last presidential election in Liberia? What is the population of Liberia today? Why are Liberians living abroad banned from voting in a Liberian presidential election? How do the illiterate people vote? I think the opposition leaders should insist on a voters’ educational program so that anybody who votes in a Liberian election would know exactly what he/she is doing.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, Charles Taylor is in a win/win situation. With all the obstacles facing the opposition parties, I don’t see how anybody can hope to unseat Charles Taylor in an election.

In spite of all I have discussed in the above paragraphs, however, I have some recommendations to make to all the opposition parties. In view of the fact that Charles Taylor has scheduled a meeting with all opposition leaders to dialogue in July of this year, I think everybody should take him up on it. Meet with him at the appointed time. Meeting with Charles Taylor is one way to find out whether he is sincere or whether he will dialogue in good faith. Before the leaders meet with Charles Taylor, however, here are some recommendations I would like to make so that they can be included on the agenda to be discussed with Mr. Taylor:

1. All opposition leaders should convene a meeting between now and July to hammer out an agenda to discuss with Charles Taylor. Disregard your party affiliation for now; what is at stake is greater than any one individual’s ego.

2. Top priority on the agenda should be the discussion of the appointment of an independent election Commission. I am sure there are still some honest Liberians out there.

3. The Government should give free equal time to all qualified presidential candidates on the government owned radio station.

4. All presidential candidates should declare their sources of campaign funding. It goes without saying, that it is very likely Charles Taylor is going to dip into the Liberian Treasury to fund his campaign. If he does, then the Treasury should make available equal public funding to all qualified presidential candidates.

5. A minimum of two presidential debates should be scheduled to include all qualified presidential candidates to debate the issues and problems of Liberia and to propose solutions, if elected president.

6. The independent election commission should keep an Accurate record of the memberships of all parties, for historical purposes.

7. Some minimum required standards should be set for party registration and the manner in which a party Standard bearer is chosen, to take part in the Political process.

8. All qualified Liberians should be allowed the chance to vote whether they are in the country or out of the country, in a presidential election year.

9. All members of the opposition parties attending this agenda meeting can add, subtract, disagree or agree with any or all of these recommendations, but they must sign this document to show that every body was in attendance, at the end of the meeting. The Rebels fighting in Lofa County should attend this meeting as well.

10. These are some recommendations for the agenda to be discuss with Charles Taylor. Should Charles Taylor reject these recommendations without a logical reason or counter proposals, I am sure, all members of the opposition parties would see through Charles Taylor for what he really is; and therefore that would be a good excuse to boycott the election.

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