At the time the call to selfless electoral politics appears to be posing serious impediment to unity within Liberia’s political opposition, the reconfigured UP is pressing ahead with preparations for the 2011 presidential and general elections. The party has endorsed its presidential and vice presidential candidates and has set goals on how to comply with the guidelines of the National Elections Commission (NEC). What the party’s weekend preparation brings to its victory agenda is too early to say, but observers say that has portrayed the party as the most organized political institution in the country, at the moment. “But isn’t it said that the race is not to the swift, but to him that endureth to the end?” Well, time will tell. The Analyst’s Varney M. Kamara, reports.
The ruling Unity Party (UP), yesterday, endorsed Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Mr. Joseph Boakai as its standard-bearer and vice standard-bearer, in that order, for the 2011 general and presidential elections.
The recently reconfigured ruling party has also elected a new corps of officers to steer its affairs in strategic areas of electioneering politics, including campaigns, rallies, and liaison.
The party took the actions during its annual convention held over the weekend at the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Sports Complex in suburban Paynesville.
UP’s top ticket - 2011
The weekend endorsements, according to observers, mandate President Sirleaf, 72, and VP Boakai, 66, to begin preparation to run as the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2011 elections.
The endorsed candidates appeared upbeat about the partisans’ mandate, vowing to uphold the party’s banner and execute its agenda for the nation’s recovery to the fullest upon the approval of the Liberian people at the 2011 presidential polls.
“Our gathering here today signifies that we are a united party, and we should do all we can to remain together as a united people if we are to obtained victory in 2011,” President Sirleaf said in her endorsement acceptance remarks.
The UP standard-bearer then thanked the partisans for attending the convention and rallying for unity, noting that holding together with oneness of purpose and reaching out to other Liberians was the magic wand to sweeping the 2011 polls.
The political iron-lady reminded the opposition that her party was coming into the electoral ring a formidable force that would not fall before weak political parties.
“We want to tell the opposition that the Unity Party will be a formidable force and they should wait and see,” she reiterated.
The party’s endorsement of the Sirleaf-Boakai team for the presidency gives the final boost to President Sirleaf’s second term bid, which the opposition and critics of the administration have repeatedly condemned as the President’s betrayal of trust.
President Sirleaf ran as a single-term candidate in the 2005 presidential race, which brought her to power, noting at the time that her interest in the presidency was to set the pace for the democratization of Liberia following years of nepotistic governance and bad economic policies.
But no sooner had the nation begun to come to than the President announced during her 2009 Annual Message to the 52nd National Legislature that not only would she run for second term but that she would also be a formidable candidate.
Critics accused her of politicizing the constitutional event to the disregard of the honor of the Legislature; but the President held her ground.
She argued that the announcement was part of her political agenda for coming years and that it was the significant background information the Legislature needed to understand where the administration was headed.
She contended at the time that her administration had barely managed to set several development initiatives into motion and that relinquishing the presidency at that critical junction of reviving the nation could be more of a disservice to the Liberian people than the betrayal critics were claiming.
The President’s key point of contention has been that unless she guided, up to fruition, the development initiatives she had set into motion, they were unlikely to grow and yield fruits under a successor, mainly an opposition successor.
Observers say the President’s posturing at this level may be advised by Liberia’s governance experience, which records each incoming administration condemning the work of the predecessor and starting from scratch.
What the opposition and critics still make of the President’s action more than a year on is not clear, but observers say the party’s weekend endorsement of the President to go for second term opened the ground for renewed arguments about betrayal, power greed, and the danger of off-handed trading of governance for the sake of guard-change transition.
Wherever the argument will lead electoral politics for 2011 remains a matter of academic guest, but observers say the reality remains that the best-organized, prepared, and outreaching party will take the polls in 2011, not the disorganized, delirious, and self-conceited ones that indulge in self-pity and want victory awarded them on that basis.
Whatever the case, there are suggestions that the UP has lot of explanation to do, beginning with the weekend endorsement of the President.
“UP must be ready to address the betrayal question, which seems the opposition’s trump card for proving President Sirleaf’s political intrigue,” said one observer.
But the party seems cognizant of the hills it has to climb, the valleys it has to descend, and the plains it has to trample in order to win the race for the Executive Mansion as indicated by its National Chairman Cllr. Varney Sherman during closing remarks at the weekend convention.
UP - indicators of preparedness
Cllr. Sherman told the UP partisans that the party was advancing to a very important stage in Liberia’s political activities, naming voters’ registration as a “very crucial initiative” to the attainment of victory.
“Partisans, we are moving to a very important stage of our political activities in Liberia and that is Voters’ Registration. We all need to know that the party that does its best to have eligible citizens to vote will have a better opportunity to win the national elections,” Cllr. Sherman said.
Given the significance of the exercise, he disclosed, the party has scheduled a partisan voters’ workshop sometime in January 2011, which would be opened to other Liberians aspiring to join or to support the UP.
He said the workshop would focus on the voter registration process with emphasis on voter’s participation, poll conduct, and ballot marking to reflect voter’s choice of candidates.
“Let us support this initiative by galvanizing logistics and other materials. We have the fullest support of our standard bearer and vice standard bearer in having this goal achieved,” the UP Chairman said.
He did not say why NEC’s voter registration was crucial to UP’s campaign strategies, but he revealed that the national executive committee of the party was meeting more frequently to organize strategies regarding the management of the party’s affairs.
As the result of that invigorated efforts, which the counselor said is the result of renewed intra-party zeal for success, the executive committee has organized 64 constituency-branches throughout the 15 counties.
He said the branches would serve as information and campaign coordinating networks during the elections to ensure that the party connects with every notch and corner of the country.
“We have organized election at the level of the Youth Congress with various constituencies in the fifteen counties. Their officers have been elected, and they too were inducted into office yesterday by our Vice Standard Bearer Joseph N. Boakai,” Cllr. Sherman said.
He said the party has acquired seven additional vehicles, bringing the total vehicles in its motor pool to 31 four-wheel-drive vehicles.
“I want to announce to you here that we have obtained seven more vehicles to let you know that we are not joking,” the UP chairman told the cheering crowd, which organizers say comprised thousands of delegates from as far as Harper in Maryland County and Voinjama in Lofa County.
In response to recent membership statistics, which indicates that the party has outgrown its Broad Street office, the UP national chairman said, the executive committee has acquired a new office space, which was due to be presented to the public yesterday.
Additionally, he said, the party has mobilized resources to cater for its full operations, and that it has plans to mobilize more resources as 2011 approaches.
The mobilization of the resources and the forging of harmonious working relationship amongst the party’s executives, the rank-and-file, and the legislative caucus, he said, were strong indicators that UP was well ahead of its rivals in the race, meaning that victory was certain.
In order to buffer the level of harmonious relationship, Cllr. Sherman said, the party has agreed to organize zonal branches and to acquire a jungle motorcycle, each, for the 64 electoral districts for liaison purposes.
Conservative but unofficial estimates put the total number of delegates to the weekend convention at 7,000, perhaps the largest gathering for political purpose in recent memories.
Several local and international organizations, including representatives of the National Elections Commission (NEC), the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), International Federation of Electoral System (IFES), foreign embassies accredited near Monrovia, and representatives of opposition political parties, attended the program.
Meanwhile, UP has elected Cllr. Gloria Musu Scout as national vice chairman for inter-party relations and NEC affairs, Wilmot Paye as national secretary general, and Amos Tweh as national youth chairman.