The Issue Of “Crowd Politics”During Campaign

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Dear readers; in this ongoing campaigning process for the special senatorial election, set for December16, I have decided to remain silent on the campaigning process because my son, Benjamin Sanvee,  born the year I graduated from high school and my good friend, Christopher Neyor, are contesting for the seat for Montserrado County. Principally, I decided on this because, as we always say, ‘Liberia is a small society,” as some people know of this relationship and also to avoid being seen as favoring them. For this, I only focus on issues relative to the role of the media in this process, as was evidenced during my recent appearances on T-Max Jlateh 50-50 talk show and LBS Supper Morning School with Sorbor George.

However, I have decided to break silence or to depart from my earlier position because of what I am hearing from some supporters of some of the candidates about the issue of “crowd”’ during the ongoing campaign period. Yes, there can be no argument about candidates bringing together a large number of people, perhaps their supporters, or people who just want to take a glance attimes. The fact of the matter is thatthere are citizens, not necessarily voters, who have been hearing about some of these candidates, especially those who have gained what he called in mass communication as “STATUS CONFERRAL.

I decided to take this as an issue today because from my observation, there are some individuals in some of the camps who want to use the issue of “crowd” as a determining factor for their strength, to an extent that some of them have begun to prematurely predict victory only because of turn out during campaign. I am even told that one official in one of the camps said that if they do not win, considering the massive turn out, they could possibly resort to violence to undermine the democratic process. Howbeit, this is not the intent of this article. My intent is to deal with the issue of “crowd” in Liberian politics, especially during the time of campaigning or voting (casting of ballots).

Whenever, the issue of crowd comes out, I always gave as an example an instance during the last presidential election in which one of the presidential candidates who was escorted to a polling center on the day of voting by 14 others said to be the supporter of that candidate casttheir votes at thatparticular center. Unfortunately, to the disbelief of the candidate, when the results were announced, there were only three votes in favor of that candidate. With this, the candidate cried foul, indicating vote-rigging.

Besides, when this particular presidential campaign was returning to Monrovia to begin the process of campaigning for the presidential election, the city of Monrovia and its environs was besieged, as hundred of people said to be supporters, clad in T-shirts and riding in chartered buses, chanted slogans, danced and sang for that candidate who did not perform well at the end of the tunnel. Can this candidate cry foul, considering the massive turn out of people said to be supporters of that candidate? NO!This is some of the show of deception in politics.

Similarly,during one of the electoral processes in Montserrado County, with the race betweenMr. Clemenceau Urey and Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, indisputably, there was large crowd thatfollowed Mr. Urey during his campaign as he visited constituencies in the county, but whenthe results came, Madam sheriff, who then ran on the ticket of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) emerged victorious. With this, Mr. Urey, had no alternative but to accept the result, without crying foul or any making threats of any activity to undermine the democratic process.

Still on the issue of crowd, for example, Mr. Sanvee’s campaign manager,Darius Dillion, who spoke to this paper said their approach to this campaign is ‘door-to-door’ or “one-to-one” in various communities. He said they would not resort to ‘crowd politics.” Can we then say thatbecause Mr. Sanvee, the youngest in the race did not resort to “crowd politics” and emerged victorious, such would not be valid? To this, I say no because we have seen and continue to see the deception of crowd.

For me, it would be sheer naivety or foolhardy on the part of anyone to begin to judge from the crowd. There are people inthe crowd for different reasons, not necessarily as supporters for particular candidates;there are people in the crowd because they want to see some of the candidates; there are some people in the crowd because of what they would get atthe end of the day; there are people in the crowd only because to be seen for selfish reasons, sometimes to protect their jobs or certain interest.

And so for someone to intrinsically believe that all of those who turn out aresupporters is to in a state of hallucination. As we carry on the campaign, we should be mindful of the people in the crowd, as they are there for many reasons. For example, should Messi and Ronaldo of Barcelona and Real Madridrespectively visit Liberia now, there would be massive turn out only to see them. Arguably, the turn out of people should not be interpreted as being supporters of those two, but that they want to see these stars that are making records or headlines.

To conclude, let me say again, that there would always be people in the crowd for different or various reasons. Lest we forget that during campaign, some people turn out too for the pomp and pageantry or the conviviality, and not necessarily as supporters of that candidate. Therefore, one must be careful or must circumspect in deciding on the issue of “crowd,” as I cited, as an example about the presidential candidate who unprecedentedly poured large crowd, but flunked at the end of the day.SEE YOU LATER!