Liberia: Unity party withdraws from the main opposition coalition

By Dounard Bondo
Posted on Friday, 25 February 2022 19:39

Liberia's President George Weah
Liberia's President George Weah in Paris, France, 11 November 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Liberia’s main opposition coalition, the CPP, is hamstrung after the departure of Joseph Boakai, Liberia’s former Vice-President and presidential standard bearer of the Unity Party (UP). It clears the way for George Weah to have an unimpeded run at a second term.

Boakai – who up until the withdrawal was the current chairperson of the CPP – had promised to address divisions in the opposition coalition when he took over the coalition in October last year.

His withdrawal comes two weeks after a faction of the Liberty Party (LP) – another member of the CPP – had announced its withdrawal from the coalition. This now means that two out of the four parties making up the CPP have withdrawn.

It means a de-facto end of the CPP as the main opposition bloc.

End of the CPP

During his speech, Boakai gave reasons for the withdrawal, including attitudes of the ANC as a constituent member and deepening conflict within the CPP, especially regarding allegations that the CPP framework had been altered. He also said that consultations with stakeholders to solve the issues did not lead to favourable results.

However, the split is largely believed to be due to the CPP’s inability to come to an agreement on who would serve as a presidential candidate against incumbent President George Weah.

Both Alexander Cummings of the ANC and Boakai had declared their respective intentions to head the ticket of the CPP.  With the coalition primaries being set for later this year, constituent parties began to disagree on the voting process.

In a statement by the ANC, it says the withdrawal of the UP is not only “proof” of a lack of leadership from Boakai as the current CPP chair, but also as a means to run away from the primaries.

The ANC statement further states that “the former Vice-President is withdrawing his Unity Party from the CPP only because his false sense of entitlement to the position of standard-bearer of the CPP, was being successfully challenged by the ANC standard bearer, Cummings.”

Weah set to capitalise?

This split in the CPP gives Weah a boost going into the 2023 presidential elections. With a divided opposition, Weah’s party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), is now in a prime position to retain the presidency.

“The breakup means a lot of things. It’s a break up of efforts, fragmentation of the collective resources needed to fight Weah who seems to be organizing and strengthening his own coalition. Essentially, the splinter means the field will be crowded with weaker parties from the opposition facing a stronger ruling coalition,” says Ibrahim Nyei, a Liberian researcher and political analyst.

Cummings had earlier claimed that the split in the CPP was being orchestrated by the government. Cummings and the ANC are currently being sued by the All Liberian Party (ALP) on criminal forgery of the CPP framework document.

Given it is now a criminal matter, the government has joined the case.  Many believe the case is being politicized, as seen in recent comments by Councillor Syrennius Cephus, the Solicitor General, and former lawyer for the ruling party who said the case “has the potential to gravely undermine and damage Liberia’s multi-party democracy and thereby plunge the CPP and the entire country into a serious political crisis which will not augur well for the peace and security of the state”.

New coalition?

In his speech, Boakai also stated that despite the failures of the CPP, he and his party are working with other individuals and political parties on a more respectable and formidable partnership.

The new coalition will most likely consist of some constituent members of the CPP. Benoni Urey, the head of the ALP has endorsed Boakai. The liberty party is currently split into two fractions; political leader Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence allies more with Joseph Boakai and her faction has declared they have left the CPP. On the other hand, liberty party chairman Musa Hassan Bility has endorsed Cummings.

It is noteworthy to mention that both Benoni Urey, the head of the ALP and Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of the LP were present at Boakai’s withdrawal speech. A new coalition might most likely include both of them.

According to Joshua Kulah a Liberian lawyer and lecturer of political science, “there is a possibility for a new coalition to be formed, the ruling party itself was a coalition formed a year before elections. However, for the new opposition coalition to stand a chance, it must be built on the will to collaborate despite the odds, and it must be set on a better structure”.

With no by-elections scheduled to take place before the presidential elections, it is certain that the first test of any new coalition will be the presidential elections.

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