Political parties here are levying exorbitant fees of US$1,350 and above for party primaries, barely one month to the official start of campaign in July for the October elections, putting strain on some aspirants.
Reports from five political parties, including the ruling Unity Party (UP) of Vice President Joseph Boakai, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)of Senator George Manneh Weah, the Alternative National Congress(ANC) of corporate executive Alexander Cummings, All Liberian Party (ALP) of businessman Benoni Urey, and the Liberty Party (LP) of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine say these sky-rocking fees are being vigorously imposed on would-be contestants.
The situation has created anxiety among aspirants for legislative seats prompting many to migrate from one political party to another, where they believe their political aims could be achieved.
Speaking to this paper on Wednesday, 17 May at the head office of the ANC, a top official of the party said the party national executive committee has agreed that each aspirant for the House of Representatives pays a non-refundable sum of US$1,350 for registration. The amount is inclusive of the US$500 being charged by the National Elections Commission as registration fee for representative candidates.
Our ANC source, however, said those aspirants, who may lose the primaries, would be reimbursed of the NEC’s fees, while the rest of the funds will be used for operational costs.
When the headquarters of the CDC was contacted on the exorbitant fees, national secretary general, Augustus JangaKowo, said that the CDC had agreed that its contestants paid US$1,250, with no clause for reimbursement of NEC’s fees for those aspirants, who may not be successful. Information gathered suggests that over 100 persons have already registered for the CDC’s primaries scheduled for end of May. If the registered figure for the CDC were something to go by, then the party has generated about US$125,000 already, while registration is still ongoing.
For the Liberty Party, vice chairman for political affairs, Mr. Abraham Darious Dillon, through the LP national executive committee announced that all aspirants shall recruit 5,000 persons in the party in order to gain a slot for legislative seat. However, this paper reliably gathers that the Liberty Party is also charging US$1,300 for each contestant going for primaries. Taking into account the electoral process of Liberia which is money driven, an aspirant could spend very close to US$2,000 to acquire a slot.
National Secretary General Jacob Smith, who spoke to this paper via mobile, denied the report, saying that the executive committee is still holding consultations on requirements for primaries.
He reveals that the party will soon release its requirements to the public prior to the conduct of its primaries early June. For the ruling Unity Party, sources say that the party is charging a non-refundable lump-sum of US$1,500 per aspirant. But the Director for Press and Public Affairs, Mr. Mo Ali, claims the governing party is still discussing the matter and has not reached any logical conclusion.
The All Liberian Party through its national chairman, Mr. Theodore Momoh, told this paper on Wednesday at the ALP headquarters that the party’s committee responsible for such matter has proposed US$500 per aspirant, pending approval of the executive committee, adding that the country is faced with serious economic challenges, and that levying high fees is another means of denying rightful persons an opportunity to represent their people at the House of Representative of the Liberian Legislature.
Chairman Momoh added that the party will demand that all contestants are active due payers, with good financial record and regularly participates in the party’s activities.
Meanwhile, all parties contacted said primaries are cost intensive, including transportation of delegates, feeing and per diems, which are mostly shouldered by the party, noting that one of the ways political parties generate funding is through aspirants’ fees.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne