LIFE SUPPORT: Could a Stitch in Time Save Opposition’s ‘Best Chance’ To Beat Ellen?

By Rodney D. Sieh

Source: FrontPage Africa

Monrovia –

Just days after the signing of a communiqué with Charles Brumskine, the political leader of the Liberty Party, George Manneh Weah, Standard Bearer of the Congress for Democratic Change touched down in Monrovia to gather supporters at the party’s headquarters in Congotown where he faced an antsy crowd searching for answers about the validity of what was dominating the political airwaves: Is it true that he(Weah) had agreed to run Number Two to Brumskine?

When Weah left the mass of his core support base, it was evident that the proposed deal with Brumskine was still a work in progress needing a lot of selling to Weah’s grassroot supporters. In the aftermath since the signing, critics have faulted both Weah and Brumskine for not doing enough to sell the proposed ticket or Memorandum of Understanding to put up a formidable ticket for next year’s presidential elections.

Weeks later, the Brumskine-Weah pairing appears to be on the ropes amid squabbling and internal fighting among various forces within Weah’s CDC still divided over whether or not the football legend should run number two to Brumskine.

In reality, critics say neither Weah nor Brumskine are capable of beating the formidable incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on their own. Both are having problems raising campaign money on their own and appear to be in need of each other to really have any shot at control of state power. Weah’s lack of education and experience and Brumskine’s perceived inability to connect with the average voters are potential issues the pair may be forced to tackle if they ever get around to finalizing the deal.

In 2005, Weah won the first round of voting with 28.3% of the votes with Sirleaf coming in second with 19.8 percent of the votes. However, Weah lost in the November 8, 2005 run-off with Sirleaf claiming 59.4 percent of the votes to Weah’s 40.6. Ironically, Brumskine who won 13.9 percent in the first round did not endorse either candidate.

This time around, Sirleaf is entering the presidential race as the incumbent but will likely without the support of many of the candidates who backed her in the second round.

Dr. Joseph Korto of the Liberia Equal Rights Party who claimed 3.3 percent of the votes and threw his support behind Sirleaf in the second round was rewarded with the Minister of Education post but has since left the government amid a slew of corruption allegations. Nathaniel Barnes of the Liberia Destiny Party who claimed one percent of the vote was rewarded for throwing his weight behind Sirleaf with the lucrative Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Nations post and later Ambassador to the United States. Barnes has since left the government after he was asked to step aside. But even those who did not endorse Sirleaf, like Ambassador Winston Tubman, who finished fourth with 9.2 percent of the votes and threw his support behind Weah, now favors putting a formidable opposition coalition band to take on Sirleaf. Ironically, Varney Sherman who finished fifth with 7.8 percent of the votes is now the head of the ruling party making it more than likely that Sirleaf and the ruling party’s best chance lies in whether they are capable of retaining the 2011 presidential elections on a first round vote.

Political observers are keen to see how the efforts to seal the grand coalition plays out. Tubman, who had previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Weah has not hidden his dissatisfaction at being left out of the Brumskine-Weah equation. Tubman has suggested that he was under the impression that Weah would run second to him. Nevertheless, the veteran diplomat insists that he is committed to the cause of putting together a strong coalition to take on the ruling party.

But first, according to political observers, both Brumskine and Weah must find common ground and must be able to convince grassroots CDCians that the ticket will be in the interest of all and not just a few. Adding fuel to the fire is the complications of the Democratic Alliance, still not a political party but seemingly positioning itself as a haven of political intricacies.

Weah has not hidden his dislike for the DA and Brumskine, who recently signed on to the DA has withdrawn his interest.

For now, both Brumskine and Weah appear committed to the deal signed in Accra but risk losing the core of Weah supporters feeling left out of the equation.

Last week, Acarous Gray, Deputy Secretary General of the CDC urged partisans of CDC to reject without any fear or intimidation said communiqué signed in Accra, Ghana on grounds that it does not reflect the political identity and philosophical beliefs and values of the grassroots and Liberia’s future. Said Gray: “Remember that our grassroot supporters are over eighty percent of our overall numerical strength; they have spoken in every slums, ghettos and villages of Liberia, a patriotic NO to this communiqué.”

The stall in the Brumskine-Weah formula is also complicated by concerns that Weah could lose some of his core supporters to the National Union for Democratic Progress headed by Prince Johnson, the former leader of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia. But even more complications are on the horizon as the 2011 elections nears with many political pundits wondering whether the dream pairing will be able to hold or satisfy their supporters’ angst against the potential ticket. While much remains at stake, time may not be on the side of the Brumskine-Weah proposed marriage of political convenience. With the incumbent government already decided on returning in its current form: Sirleaf-Boakai, the ticket seen the most viable to put up a strong fight appears to be stuck in neutral gear. Unless it can survive the onslaught of disapproval from die-hard grassroot CDCians, it appears the dream pairing may be faced with the bleak reality that time may not be in its favor as the road to 2011 creeps in and the clock ticks toward an interesting political twist mired in a sea of internal squabbles and discontentment.

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