Liberia’s political parties and candidates are gearing up for the official campaign period: But what matters?

Liberia Pol Parties transparent democratic governance in africa

The official campaign period for Liberia’s 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections kicks off on 5 August 2023 and will end two days before election day, on 8 October 2023. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) recorded 1,030 aspirants who filed nominations documentation to contest. In accordance with the campaign guidelines, all candidates appearing on the final listing of candidates are required to submit their campaign schedules to the Commission.


❖ The official campaign period will run from 5 August 2023 to 8 October 2023.
❖ Political candidates are required to submit their campaign schedules to the NEC.
❖ If parties or candidates have scheduled their campaign activities on the same date, time or venue, the NEC has the discretion to determine which candidate receives preference.

The NEC issued the 2023 Campaign Guidelines in March 2023, which are to be adhered to by Political Parties, Coalitions, Alliances and Independent Candidates. Violation of the guidelines will attract a fine of not less than US$1,000 but not exceeding US$5,000. The guidelines define campaigning as “canvassing for votes, any verbal expression or symbolic speech of an aspirant, candidate, political party, coalition or alliance done for the purpose of electing or promoting an aspirant or a  candidate for elective office”.

Among the requirements of political parties during the campaign period is the submission of Campaign Schedules seven days before the campaign day. This entails that all parties will have to communicate their plans with the NEC to avoid conflicts and clashes at public venues. In line with best practices, the NEC has allocated ample time for campaigning. It can only be hoped that all participating candidates, coalitions, alliances and political parties will adhere to the 2023 campaign guidelines.

Liberia Pol Parties transparent democratic governance in africa

The campaign period enables electoral contestants to explain and interact with citizens about their visions and promises to potential voters. It is therefore ideal for political parties and candidates to conduct issue-based campaigns to inspire confidence in their capacity to hold public office. Politics in Africa has historically been characterized by a focus on personalities, ethnicity, and region, rather than policy issues. However, more recently, there has been a growing interest in issue-based politics in Africa; an approach that seeks to address problems and challenges facing society by proposing relevant solutions that address citizens’ needs and aspirations. Issue-based politics, therefore, is an electoral approach whereby political parties and candidates prioritize policy topics and participate in substantive debates and discussions. Providing voters with meaningful options, connecting divergent citizen interests, involving citizens in the political process, cultivating responsive leaders, and holding governments accountable. 

The road to the legislature is long, resource-intensive, and exhausting. Becoming a candidate is only the beginning of the election process. Successful candidates must persuade voters to vote for them and garner the critical votes required by the law. Persuading voters is the essence of a political campaign. Traditional forms of electioneering, such as advertising, theme songs, stump speeches, and even negative campaigning, are important, but they are not the only things that matter. In addition to these traditional forms, successful candidates must also build relationships with voters, listen to their concerns, and offer solutions to their problems.

"Politics in Africa has historically been characterized by a focus on personalities, ethnicity, and region, rather than policy issues. However, more recently, there has been a growing interest in issue-based politics"

Across the continent and beyond, traditional political campaigns often rely on party activities. However, to be effective, political parties need to move beyond emotive approaches and focus on crafting targeted communication strategies based on data and voter behavior. Rhetorical messaging can be effective in the short term, but it is not sustainable in the long term. Voters are increasingly savvy and desensitized to emotional appeals. They are more likely to be persuaded by messages that are tailored to their specific needs and concerns. By examining data and voter behavior, political candidates and parties can identify the key issues that matter to voters and develop messages that resonate with them. They can also use data to target their messages to specific groups of voters, such as young voters, women, or voters in a particular geographic area.

The election process is a complex and challenging one, but it is also an essential part of democracy. By persuading voters and building relationships, successful candidates can make a difference in the lives of their constituents and help to shape the future of their community. Characterizing most political campaigns in Africa are candidate personalities who are often unfortunately taken more seriously than their ideologies or manifestos. The IEOM will be looking out for candidate manifestos with adequate information and clear political ideologies that provide credible alternatives for the electorate.

The IEOM will also assess levels of security throughout the campaign period. Given that a lot of allegations and accusations have been made against certain groupings for harboring militia groups, it will be prudent for every peace-loving Liberian to appreciate the importance of safeguarding gains made by the country thus far. Violence has no place on the campaign trail and none whatsoever in a democratic dispensation. The goal of political aspirants should be to share their visions, aspirations and plans with citizens who will elect their leaders on 10 October 2023.

About USAID Support to EISA-IEOM to Liberia: The USAID-funded EISA International Election Observation Mission (EISA-IEOM) Activity seeks to enhance the integrity of the 2023 Liberia Presidential and Legislative elections through the deployment of an independent international election observer mission (EOM) to monitor, assess and report on all phases of the electoral process in accordance with international and regional benchmarks. The IEOM is implemented in close coordination with the financial support of USAID/Liberia and will complement the efforts of other electoral stakeholders.