By Festus Poquie
Negotiation aimed at building a consolidated force against the ruling Unity party to avoid a 24-year rule of a single political hegemony in 21st century Liberia, appears to have collapsed.
The opposition Liberty Party and the Congress for Democratic Change have been holding the coalition talks but the pair entered the New Year with disagreement on the spearhead, financing and structure of such alliance.
This could be the second time in six years that the two main opposition parties are failing to form a common front against the governing Unity Party in a presidential contest.
The first attempt at forming a coalition to face then candidate-President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2011 collapsed with both parties suffering defeat at the hands of the unity party.
In 2017,Johnson-Sirleaf will not be a candidate, thanks to constitutional limitation on presidential term. Vice President Joseph has the near-retiring leaders blessing to occupy the hot seat, making him the man to beat.
So, on 23 December, 2015 CDC and Liberty Party delegates met at A’LA Lagoon in Monrovia to discuss the possibility of a merger or coalition for the 2017 legislative and presidential elections. In that meeting, the parties had a common ground to democratically oust the ruling Unity Party. But there was no agreement on who should head the coalition against Boakai – meaning the talks crashed.
How it happened? Regarding the approach to deriving the standard bearer of the ticket, representatives of the parties at the negotiation did not reach a common point on whether it should be consensus based, open primary or caucus statement.
At that point the CDC made a proposal that it wants to head the coalition with the condition that it would cede to the Liberty Party 60% of the legislative positions, 60% of the Executive [cabinet] positions and finance the campaign by 60%.
The Liberty Party also made a counter proposal that it wants to head the coalition and that in that direction it would give to the CDC 80% of the legislature, 80% of the Executive positions and finance the campaign by 80%. The LP estimates the campaign would cost US$34million and that it will make US$23.8million of that amount available.
Minutes from the discussion show that the Liberty Party indicated that its proposal was inversely related such that “if the CDC wants to head the ticket they should give LP 80% of the legislature, 80% of the Executive and fund the campaign 80% and that if the CDC agrees it should deposit 70% of the US$23million in an escrow account before a joint pronouncement is made.”
At this moment the CDC called for another round of talks on 30 December. The meeting was held but no outcome. Now reports are emerging that the CDC’s representatives have pulled out of the negotiation seeking new alliance.
Emmanuel K. Roberson – Secretary General of the Montserrado County branch of the CDC told the New Democrat that a key party figure on the negotiation team is pushing for Finance Minister Amara Konneh to be the running mate to party leader Weah. He expressed anger at the death of the coalition talks attributing it demise to lack of strategic national interest of the CDC, greed, love for money.
He said: “The deal has to crumble because there are people who went to the negotiation with a selfish agenda. You cannot go to a negotiation on the basis of seeking your personal aggrandizement or using the arrangement as a money making process.
“I’m one of those who opposed the negotiation from the earlier stage. But document before me that I have read substantially, clearly reflects the manifestation of fairness – that is a fifty-fifty or win-win situation. So, for [Samuel]Tweah to have pulled out of the discussion thereby proffering Amara Mohammed Konneh as the new darling boy for the CDC’s Vice Standard Bearer clearly shows how selfish Tweah is. So Tweah must be punished by the ordinary people of the Congress for Democratic Change because the CDC is not a market ground for people to be looking for financial profits. Too long we have lived our lives for the CDC.”
Mr. Samuel Tweah led the CDC negotiation team along with Cllr. Sayman Chephas, Cllr. Charles Gibson, Jangar Kowo and Mamasi Kabah. Tweah could not be reached for comment but Party Secretary General Jangar Kowo downplayed the allegation and insisted talks were still ongoing.
Mr. P. Emmaunel Munyeneh headed the LP discussion team along with Kwame Ross, Maxwell Grisby, Milton Quaye and Vincent Willie. Munyeneh declined to comment on the status of the negotiation and its reported death. Writes Festus Poquie