18 August 2017

Liberia Votes 2017 - How Presidential Candidates Fare At Debate

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

Monrovia — Great ideas to make Liberia a better country were in abundant supply at the Liberia's 2017 presidential debate at the Paynesville Town Hall, as four candidates vying to become the next president put across their plans to the public.

Education, health, nepotism, corruption and alternative ways of generating revenue for the country and the economy dominated the discussion.

The overall performances of the candidates surpassed previous debate for presidential candidates held in Ganta last week.

The presidential candidates relied on statistics to buttress their points. One thing was clear to the thoroughly thrilled audience: Except for a few candidates at last week's debate, whoever emerges winner in the October 10 election, Liberia would be in good hands if the words said Wednesday are matched with action.

The event kicked off few minutes past 1 PM but the pew of the large Paynesville town hall was already completely filled with members of the public and a good number of others, who couldn't find seats, remained outside.

The debate, which was organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition, was moderated by Maureen Sieh, Internews' Journalism Adviser, Raymond Zarbay of UNMIL Radio and Boakai Fofana from Capital FM and funded by OSIWA.

Below is FrontPage Africa's analysis of what the candidates presented as their plans for the country.

Joseph Boakai, Unity Party

As the candidate of the incumbent party, Vice President and standard bearer of Unity Party Joseph Boakai was placed on the defensive most of the time and this affected his performance during the debate.

However, he gave a good account of himself. With a boyish smile permanently stamped on his face, if he was worried by the attacks and taunts directed at him by the other supporters of other candidates he did not show it.

While he spent most of time explaining how he would make the policies of the incumbent administration better, he did not articulate so much of his own original ideas.

Boakai promised to fight corruption, nepotisms and ensure Liberia can once again become self-sufficient by returning to the soil.

Charles Brumskine, Liberty Party

The Liberty Party standard bearer was articulate and his plans for the country appeared well-rehearsed and delivered with the confidence of a star performer.

He announced his entry into the race by declaring that Liberia by reducing 30 per cent salary cut for him and his running mate Harrison Karnwea.

Brumskine, a lawyer by profession, said his party's main vision for the country is anchored on Education, infrastructural renewal, corruption, nepotisms and others. Making reference to the high failure rate in the West African Examination Council exams in the country, he said education in the country is in shambles.

He promised a complete review of the educational policy.

He was confident and articulated his point clearly. Brumskine's performance at the debate underscored the need for the opposition to unite against continuity ahead of the October 10 presidential election.

Alexander Cummings, Alternative National Congress

By miles, Cummings was the star of the debate. He literally took other presidential candidates to the cleaners with the masterful delivery, use of statistics and data from government and other international organizations.

Unlike the raucous response some of the contestants elicited from the audience, any time Cummings spoke, the audience stayed quiet.

He started by saying being a person who has managed a budget more than Liberia's (over a billion dollar) when he worked as one of the executives of Coca Cola, he knew what it takes to run a small scale enterprise and his government would give priority attention to the economy.

Cummings said his vision for Liberia is for it to be to make everyone feel their fair share of the country's economy where Liberians would live in a secure and prosperous country. "I want to build a Liberia where people can realize their aspirations," he said.

Benoni Urey, All Liberian Party

The ALP standard bearer did not disappoint at all. He had spent less than 30 seconds talking before he started drawing loud applaus from the audience due to the brilliance of some of his policies. He pushed for radical reform in education, corruption and infrastructural development.

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