Dollar Democracy and the Politics of Fear

Supporters of the newly established All Liberians Party (Photo Peter N. Toby
Supporters of the newly established All Liberians Party (Photo Peter N. Toby

By Festus Poquie

The opposition Liberty Party has made a troubling proposal that when implemented will steal democracy from the poor, murder it and surrender the nation-state to the economic and political elites and effectively retrogress the nation into the ancient days of one party oligarchic political order.

As a panelist at the Governance Commission dialogue on political party reform the Liberty Party via its Chairman the Cllr. Fonati Koffa kicked against the proliferation of political parties and recommended that political parties should be established on the basis of economic and material wealth.

The Cllr. Koffa :“To reduce the proliferation of political parties let the Elections Commission increase the elections requirement to US$500,000 to enable parties build institution not around individuals. When the requirements are high, only serious individuals and institutions will register a party”

“You have to increase the requirements to become a political party to ensure that the most serious individuals who want to found parties will found parties and those who are founding parties just for mischief purposes would see that it will not be economically possible to be able to do so.”

If a political party in a democracy is defined as one that has the largest amount of money and not one that has the largest amount of people as the Liberty Party Chair is wanting us to believe and accept, then what and where is the Liberty in the ‘Liberty Party’?

Mr. Chairman, Liberia is a Liberal democratic society. Therefore it is form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of liberalism characterized by fair, free, and competitive elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and political freedoms for all people.

Article 77 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia reads ‘Since the essence of democracy is free competition of ideas expressed by political parties and political groups as well as individuals, parties may freely be established to advocate the political opinions of the people. Laws, regulations decreed or measures which might have the effect of creating a one party state shall be declared unconstitutional.

Thus the Liberty Party proposition is a palpable attach on the country’s democracy based on the unconstitutionality and its anti democratic content. Political parties should be built on the basis of ideas and people who subscribe to its philosophic and political ideology hence become its partisans and sympathizers.

Therefore if the Liberty Party of Liberia is pushing for the death of liberty and the installation of an aristocratic rule then people who agree with such political system should join it as its supporters . For the poor who will be excluded when the government of the rich people is governing, should turn out en masse on polling day to electorally contain it like the French just did with Maria Le Pen National Front.

The solution to the weak underdeveloped and corrupt political culture of our country is not and cannot be rooted in the commercialization of democracy. While the multiparty system in Liberia has been largely successful for the political and economic elites save the competition guarantee via the electoral process, it is sill acceptable for our democracy.

It is sadden that in Liberia Political parties are not established on ideological grounds. Instead it has been the foundation of theft and plunder. That explains why Liberians have not been benefiting from the multi party system they fought and died for.

It is a good thing to seek political party reform. But it cannot be tied around economic strength of one man, one party. It cannot also be left with the concept of electoral competition. Going forward discussions should border on political accountability.

It is a consensus amongst political scientists that accountability is one of the imperative “components” of democracy which implies that “in a democracy, citizens must have ability to reward and punish office holders for good or bad conduct and successful or unsuccessful policies”.

Again, Article 1 of the 1986 constitution provides the mechanism for political and democratic accountability. It reads “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure that democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.

Like financial accountability, the idea and practice of democratic political accountability has been lacking in the Liberian society for century and decades. The guilty party in any case here has been the political elites. While the voters – the non political actors are also to blame for their inaction with respect to adequate application of the provision of Article 1 of the Constitution. The political establishment is guilty simply because they have not been providing civic education on the rights and role of the voters in a democratic society. Increased democratic accountability is not only pivotal to the existence of democracy but socio- economic growth and development. The decrease in political accountability can best explain why the ordinary man has not benefited from the multiparty political system and can also serve as the differential amongst infant democracy, emerging democracy and established democracy.

Also using the Liberty Party as an example, were its supporters informed that it would join the Unity Party in the 2011 runoff presidential election? If so, which public policy program matched those of the Unity Party and captured for implementation? That the coalition with the Unity Party was successful at the polls, can the Liberty Party share some of the blames for unfavorable actualization of negotiated and bargain public policies? Or was the alliance built on jobs allocation and Kickbacks? The answers to these questions can determine the seriousness or uselessness of a political party and not the amount or size of an individual bank account.