Managing Political Competition, Voter Expectations and Potential Risks

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Political competition is not just about candidates battling it out in debates, it’s the lifeblood of a budding democracy. It serves to satisfy the diverse needs and expectations of voters. Political competition affords choice and diversity, the more the number of contenders, the wider the array of policy alternatives being offered. This diversity ensures that all sections of society have a voice and can choose a representative that aligns with their expectations. Campaigns naturally embody a sense of accountability, encouraging politicians to deliver on their promises. As failure to meet voter expectations could result in them losing favor and votes. In a sense, competition keeps elected officials on their toes, constantly reminding them that they are answerable to the public.


❖ Liberia’s Constitution guarantees the right to form a political party, register as voters and vote in public elections and referenda for all Liberians who have attained the age of 18 years.
❖ There are 46 registered political parties in Liberia.
❖ Political competition affords choice and diversity.
❖ Addressing risks and potential conflict triggers in the pre-elections, elections, and post-elections period is a duty for all electoral stakeholders.

However, it is important to remember that it is not just about competition; it is about healthy competition. Political parties, candidates and their supporters should not resort to negative campaigning or inciting fear to win voters. Instead, the focus should be on demonstrating competence, integrity, and a genuine desire to serve the public. So, as the campaign period kicks off, political parties and independent candidates should remember the essential role that competition plays in meeting voter expectations. Nearly all 46 political parties have signed the Revised Farmington River Declaration 2023. The first signing of the agreement was held on 4th April 2023, in Margibi, which saw leaders of 27 political parties first commit to peaceful, transparent, and credible elections. A second signing event was held in Monrovia on the 21st of July 2023, whereby leaders of political parties who could not participate in the first signing could also commit to the agreement. The signing of the agreement has been held under the auspices of Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Signatories to the agreement must live to the spirit of the agreement due to the expectation that the election will be highly contested.

Independent candidate campaign in Lifa 2023 transparent democratic governance in africa

It is also important to note that money and political influence impact the playing field for all electoral contestants. In Liberia as in many African countries, there is limited public funding of political party activities. Activities by parties are sometimes funded by the individual leaders, membership dues and, in some cases, diaspora support. This can lead to volatile funding within parties, caused by changing party leaders’ interests or factors like promises to share positions once a coalition takes power. Some smaller and newer parties that EISA Long Term Observers (LTOs) interacted with seemed to recognize the inevitability of building coalitions with larger parties ahead of the 2023 elections to pool resources. EISA’s LTOs report that the 2023 elections are likely to be closely contested, with some political parties (UP, CDC and CPP) demonstrating the greatest access to resources. The political competition has intensified with observable campaign activities by the political parties and aspirants. The streets of Monrovia are flanked by posters and billboards promoting candidates and their visions, with more candidates expected to formally launch their campaigns over the next coming weeks. As such, preventive measure to keep the campaign environment healthy are necessary.

How can electoral violence be avoided?

To address the electoral-related risks, some of the stakeholders the LTOs interacted with proposed that there is a need to have preventive mechanisms ahead of the 2023 campaign and elections period. Some of the proposed mechanisms include:

  1. The NEC should effectively fulfill its mandate on voter registration, regulating nomination of candidates, campaigns, campaign financing, locating and staffing polling stations, administering the vote, and counting ballots. If well managed, the election results will be credible, ensure transparent communications and deal with Liberia’s logistical challenges. When election administration is fair, transparent, and efficient, it helps build confidence among the electorate that they can have confidence in the credibility of the outcomes. This legitimacy reduces the likelihood of disputes or challenges to the election outcome, thereby minimizing tensions and potential violence.
  2. Securing the electoral process through a well-trained and coordinated national security agency. Well-trained and well-equipped police can provide a domestic guarantee for election security if they prioritise protecting the electoral process and are held accountable for abuses and misconduct.
  3. Election Monitoring and Observation of the electoral process using both domestic and international standards for democratic elections. This can confer legitimacy and transparency by evaluating the quality of the electoral process, confirming victory or defeat, and backing the election management body in the event of allegations of fraud.
  4. Civic and Voter Education can encourage citizen participation and help introduce new electoral laws, regulations and processes. It can explain the voting process and, if possible, how to file a complaint. Civic education campaigns have broader objectives beyond the election in question in that they inform citizens about the political system and their democratic rights and responsibilities
  5. Peace messaging during campaigns to influence the attitudes and behaviors of both the electorate as a whole and of vulnerable groups or possible perpetrators of violence.

Competition in the political arena, is one of the key indicators for a thriving democracy. Yet it comes with risks to peace and security that require preventive measures. The electoral stakeholders need to continuously address risks and triggers in the pre-elections, elections, and post-elections and those beyond the elections period to deliver elections that are both credible and peaceful.

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.