22 August 2017

Liberia: The State of Race in August 2017 - It Is CDC's Lose

Photo: FrontPage Africa
George Weah at a rally of the Congress for Democratic Change

Now that campaigning for the 2017 elections have finally open, there is a need for us, the pundits, to assess the race and provide our perspectives as to where things stand.

Without going any further let me clarify that these elections will produce no "dark horses"; the winners are known candidates.

No matter how hard some of the newer candidates try, I believe that they don't have the base from which to make a good run. Now let's see where we are in these elections.

Before the campaign opened on July 31, 2017, Charles Brumskine's Liberty Party (LP) did demonstrate enormous political and logistical powers with an effective social and print media campaign.

I must confess that LP has been doing everything right. They have demonstrated that they have plan effective for these elections; mobilized the resources required and brought in the logistics on time.

The LP also made a good choice in picking a VP from Nimba and naming Musa Bility (an influential dude in the Mandingo and Muslim community) as its Campaign Chair. By every political calculation, these are strategic political moves that should have placed LP in the lead but it seems that LP is still struggling.

From very indications, the LP's problem is its candidate: for some very strange reason Charles Brumskine has never become the first choice for the majority of Liberians.

For Brumskine to appeal to anyone, you will have go through a thorough debate and bring a lot of reasoning to bear and usually people don't have time for that.

In elections, even in the most sophisticated societies, the candidate must first appeal to the emotions of the electorates; the electorates must like the person first before they begin to decide whether or not they will vote for that person.

On the likeability factor, Brumskine score very low and therefore has not picked up any steam. So far, I see that Brumskine is still struggling for 4th or 5th place in these elections alongside Cummings, Urey, and Mills Jones. It would be resounding victory if CB comes in third place.

On the next front is the candidate who has racked up a number of high level political endorsements, Vice President Joe Boakai. It is important to note that these endorsements ate mainly from establishment and tribal communities.

Before the opening of campaign Joe Boakia's supporters even thought that he was headed for a first round sweep. In a previous article I warned about the "endorsement" politics and called for an effective ground game.

I think Joe Boakai is losing on that front. Additionally, the Joe Boakai's train have started to slow down and have lost steam in a significant way and several factors may be responsible for that.

The first factor for Joe Boakai is that every decision he has made, ranging from naming his vice-presidential pick to putting his campaign team together, he has been very slow and each of those decisions have cost him in terms momentum.

On the strategy and planning front, the Unity Party does not seem to have coherent strategy or message on which to campaign. It seems every surrogate is making up his/her own message as he/she sees fit.

At this point, no one really knows why Joe B wants to be president especially since he has been vice president for the last 12 years. I am sure the Liberian people will definitely want to know what Joe Boakai intends to do and how different will it be from what has happened in the last 12 years and why weren't those things done.

These are fair questions and I am sure the Liberian people will want answers.

At the moment, the only thing that the Liberian people are hearing from the Joe B campaign is that he is an honest, indigenous man. I am not sure this will cut it. And then as we have observed lately, the Unity Party seems to be in disarray with factions forming around those who felt excluded by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and those where on team Ellen.

This has even made President Sirleaf to have to announce to the country again that she supports her Vice President of 12 years. These are not encouraging signs and could cause the Unity Party these elections.

For now, everything we see point to a disappointing scenario whereby the Unity Party is running against Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

This is a losing strategy and that is why the Unity Party seems to be struggling for 2nd or 3rd place in these elections, it is very possible that Unity Party could not make it to the second round if things don't turn around very quickly.

And then for the Weah's CDC, things have started to turn upside for them. Before the beginning of campaign, the CDC seemed dead and the conventional thinking was that the Weah and his CDC are not as popular as they were in 2005.

Some pundits have even observed that CDC's support has been declining and it finally fell when Weah decided to go into the Senate.

Well, from everything we have seen lately, the CDC seems to be poised for first place in these elections with the possibility, however slim, that they could win on the first ballot.

Weah's major problem so far has been the Taylor factor on his ticket. This is hurting him internationally but could give him lots of votes in the Kpelle belt during the elections.

We have also observed that Weah is better prepared in these elections than most people expected. He has been able to plan properly and raise resources for his campaign.

It seems that over the years, Weah may be organizing some donors and giving them confidence that he can win this thing.

The only downside for Weah is that if he doesn't win this on the first ballot, he might struggle to galvanize the opposition behind him but if he plays right, he could effectively do that.

This requires strategy and in my next article, I will talk about what Weah and his CDC can do to ensure that they effectively mobilize the opposition behind him so that 2005 doesn't replay.

Now the rest of the pack: Prince Johnson, Cummings, Urey, and Mills Jones. It is evident that none of these people will become president no matter what happens.

If Prince Johnson is able to co-opt his kinsmen again into believing that he is the better option for them so they should empower him so that he can negotiate on their behalf, then he might come third again just by winning the Nimba County by about 60%.

But if the Nimba people feel that by voting for Prince Johnson they are wasting their votes because there is no way that Prince Johnson can be president, then he might be relegated to political non-entity after these elections.

On Cummings, I see that he is a good man but a political neophyte. The man commands no presence and looks very un-presidential.

He has the resources to spend and his supporters are indeed spending it. Cummings would have made a good running mate to one of the major candidates but he decided to run.

I also see that his folks are deceiving him that spending money on some Commissioners at NEC could put him in the second round.

This is utter nonsense and he will be very foolish to believe that. Cummings is headed nowhere and will be among those that we will look for at the bottom of the tally sheet.

So if it is true that Cummings has already spread the US$1.6 million around on the NEC Commissioners then let him that he brought Christmas earlier for those folks but it's not going to happen.

Urey and Mills Jones are folks who decided to express their frustration and thought that spending money could buy them the votes to become president. Urey's entire political future was a bet on Weah becoming his running mate.

Once that did not materialize, he became just another Liberian running for President and he will appear on the ballot but what will be said of him? He better be show that he wins his home town of Caresburg because if he doesn't, he should just go, sit down and shut his rude mouth. The guy is too rude and unpolished to be president.

He appears like a gangster!

Mills Jones is another actor who was terrible deceived by the late Theo Betie (may his soul rest in peace) that he could be president if he used the CBL's money to give loans to poor people. This even led the dude to renting a crowd to attend his mother's funeral.

With the passing of the Theo, Maxwell Kumayan (a known money eater) took over and decided that he will enrich himself by stroking Mills Jones' ego and he has succeeded. Imagine that Mills Jones picks a running mate, Rev. Sam B. Reeves of the Providence Baptist Church, who is as selfish and self-centered as he (Mills Jones) is. Rev. Reeves cannot win an election in the Baptist Church but this just goes to tell you who Mills Jones is.

So far, this is the state of the race as I see it. Unless something dramatic happens, there is an 80% chance that the CDC and the Unity Party will head into the second round; an 10% change that the CDC and LP would go into the second round; and a 10% chance that the CDC could win on the first ballot.

Robin Lee Tarpeh, Political Consultant,

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