15 August 2017

Liberia: Presidential Candidates Unlikely to Attend Debate On August 17

Photo: FrontPageAfrica
Supporters of presidential candidate Charles Walker Brumskine gather outside Paynesville Town Hall for the first in a series of presidential debates organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition.

Monrovia — Liberian presidential debate is expected that begin this week with six political parties listed to partake but all of them aren't sure of attending.

The debate is intended to highlight the platforms of political parties as they gear for the October's election.

The six participants are Unity Party(UP)- Ambassador Joseph Boakai, Liberty Party(LP)- Charles Brumskine, Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC)- Senator George Weah, All Liberian Party(ALP)- Businessman Benoni Urey, Movement for Economic Empowerment(MOVEE)-Dr. Mills Jones, Alternative National Congress(ANC) - Mr. Alexander Cummings.

The Unity Party Secretary General Mo Ali said he has no idea of the pending debate.

"I don't know call the chairman," he said. The party's chairman Wilmot Paye's phones were off.

ANC chairman Horatio Gould said his standard bearer is aware. "I got the notification and I don't know if my standard bearer will attend but we are processing the communication internally."

LP Chairman Ben Sanvee said he was in a meeting while Janga Cole of the CDC and ALP chairman Theodore Momo phone rang without an answer.

CDC Secretary General Janga Kowo said he doesn't know if his standard bearer will be part of the debate.

Kowo said "The party has no knowledge of the debate and Senator Weah is out of country."

The debate, comprising of five civil society organizations, says it wants to compel the candidates to unveil theirplatforms so citizens can vote on the basis of policies.

In an exclusive interview with FPA, the Coordinator of Deepening Democracy Coalition, Lamii Kpargoi, said 6 of the 22 presidential candidates will take partin the Thursday, August 17 debate.

He said the selection of the 6 participant parties was based on the findings of an opinion poll.

A culture of debate has never really existed in Liberia. Its absence has meant citizens cannot compare candidate positions against each other, leaving them little basis upon which to decide their vote.

Mr. Kpargoi said: "The debate is expected because we are making this election issue focused."

He noted that the last time Liberia had a peaceful transition was 1944, so few people have any experience of it .

"I am not saying they aren't alive but seeing someone who voted in 1944 barely still around."

The Coordinator also said that the extension of the 12 years peace is crucial to every Liberian.

"For the past 20 years we have had election and the debate is not only about election but real issues that affect the country."

"It is going to provide the Liberian people the clear opportunity as to what, how, and why they want to be president because we will hold them on their commitment."

Kpargoi said "We are hoping that the candidates will respond to six thematic areas - Economy, Agriculture, Peace and Reconciliation, Youth Empowerment, and Security and Rule of Law- these are key issues that needs attention.

They must tell us how to implement the plans and why they want to implement the plans."

He disclosed that while they have been engaged with Presidential candiddates of political parties for the past eight weeks, they are still awaiting final confirmation.

"Despite the engagement we haven't received any written communication from any of the parties, but they all have promised to come."

He said they can't do all of the 26 political parties but could alsoinclude the next six outside the six that were selected.

The debate will be free to air, and it will be live on social media On the moderators, Kpargoi said a selection of 8 was sent to each political party, in order they may decide on the best five.

They have also written tothe Liberia National Police to deploy men for safety of the candidates and supporters.

"We have asked each presidential candidate to bring 10 people excluding their immediate families, and the Vice President candidates and families, so in total it will be 20 from each candidate."

Kpargoi hopes the Liberian people will take charge of the election, "we talking about pushing along the 6 years and we all must work to keep the peace."

"This is not any election but it's important for the peace of the country, specifically how our lives will be transformed," he said.

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