When Negotiating Goes Wrong: Inside the CPP Friction

By Baba Sillah

The primal miscalculation

The primal miscalculation of the ‘strongest political party’ or ‘biggest political party’ in the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), the Unity Party (UP), was to have entered into a collaboration with other parties on an equal plane. The UP should have used their elements of power (real and potential) and clout to their advantage. As the immediate past ruling party and the party that obtained the second most votes cast in the 2017 presidential election (457,579 votes accounting for 38.5 %), they should have impressed on the others during the very formation of the collaboration that they must, as a matter of general consensus, field the presidential candidate in 2023.

This should have been the UP’s singular, most important and nonnegotiable request. It’s irreducible position. Furthermore, the UP should never have agreed to a restrictive stipulation (if there is one) that in essence forbids them from leaving the CPP and fielding a presidential candidate own their accord should they so desire. This restrictive stipulation is more dangerous to the UP than to any of the other parties. You cannot claim to own 50% of the stocks in a venture while your partners own 25, 15, and 10 percent respectively, but yet agree to divvy up the dividend equally. You must either be a charity or a financial illiterate to do so.

Good faith is not good enough

One could say it is easier to spot errors of judgement in hindsight, that’s true to some extent. But to avert the possibilities of costly errors of judgement especially those that could arise from negotiations bordering on the future of millions of people, it is particularly significant to consider the full range of ramifications both present and future to what is agreed to in a document and what is left to good faith. Good faith is not good enough! The Alternative National Congress (ALP) and the Liberty Party (LP) may choose not to contest for the presidential candidacy of the CPP as a good faith gesture. Perhaps they believe that Elder Statesman Joseph N. Boakai is the best placed person to do the deed. That’s their right.

This does not however mean that the ANC must demonstrate similar good faith gesture. It is their right not to do so. If this was the anticipation than it was the wrong one. The management of presidential ambitions should have been clearly and intentionally stipulated during the very formation of the CPP. The current friction we see in the CPP is perhaps one of an ambitious ANC trying to exploit the loopholes created by the UP’s failure to demand the presidential slot initially. The consequent maneuverings are attempts to do through other means what they failed to do three years ago.

Why do party wants to withdraw from the collaboration

It would be satisfying to the UP, ALP and some elements of the LP, were the ANC to withdraw its membership from the CPP.  But doing so would deny the ANC the opportunity (the right I should say) to field a candidate on their own as a result of the restrictive stipulation in the CPP framework agreement.

The ANC knowing this have decided not to bulge or give anyone this pleasure. From the look of things, they are doggedly determined to hang in there and fight it out. Interestingly, if the UP themselves had not agreed to the same stipulation, effectively placing a noose around their neck, they too would have possibly opted out of the CPP along with the ALP and a segment of the LP, formed a new collaboration and avoided the hassle with the ANC and their LP allies. But to do so now is dangerous, maybe not impossible. Another reason why the constituent political parties of the CPP may fear withdrawal is because it would be difficult if not impossible to obtain a decision at the National Elections Commission (NEC) or the Supreme Court of Liberia that reverses the restrictive stipulation based on claims of constitutional violation. The CDC government, intent on securing a second term may do everything in its powers to influence and/or arm-twist these institutions into upholding the dictates of the restrictive stipulation.

There is still a way to salvage the situation. In the coming days, I will provide my opinion on how I think the current crises bedeviling the CPP can be resolved. I must state preliminarily, that it can only be resolved when calmer heads prevail and focus not on non-substantive claims and counterclaims, which are obviously just smokescreens, but on making meaningful concessions. Finally, the crises have the potential to affect all of the parties proportionally and none should think they are beyond the pale.

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