Charles Walker Brumskine Wins First Presidential Debate
August, 17 will go down as the turning point in the elections of 2017 as voters around the country tuned in to radio stations for the first debate of leading presidential candidates. The debate, held in Gbarnga, Bong County, brought together Vice President Joseph Boakai of Unity Party, Cllr. Charles Brumskine of Liberty Party, Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress, and Benoni Urey of All Liberian Party.
Cllr. Brumskine articulated his plan for creating jobs and empowering the youth, reforming the education healthcare sectors. But more than sharing his plans, what resonated with Liberians was Cllr. Brumskine’s deliberation for how he would pay for the cost of uplifting the country from the current conditions under Unity Party. “Harrison–Our Vice Standard Bearer, and I have agreed to cut the budget of the Office of the President and Vice President of Liberia by at least 30 percent…We will challenge other branches of government to do the same” He said change must start from leadership. He assured Liberians that while the current budget may not solve all of Liberia’s current needs, he is confident that the budget of almost US$600 can be used more efficiently to bring substantial change to the poor in Liberia.
Cllr. Brumskine blamed the current conditions in the country to poor leadership and the inability of the current administration to put the needs of the people first. He assured Liberians that he can manage the current budget to bring change. “Our policy team has already reviewed the national budget forecasts for the next 3 years and have identified where we can find nearly US$82 (US$81,907,149.80) that can be cut from current and proposed spending lines and re-appropriated to new priorities in education, health, and infrastructure.” Experts say the current budget is top heavy with tremendous resources allocated to a few top officials. The offices of the top 6 government officials (President, Vice President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Senator Pro Temp, Chief Justice) receive about US$10 million each year for operations. The Vice President alone receives an average of US$2.3 million each year to run his office. Cllr. Brumskine said this is unacceptable in the face of abject poverty and hunger across the country.
Liberians across the country were excited to hear the candidates explain their plans for Liberia and answer questions relating to their personal character, credibility and previous experiences. After the debate, pollsters began asking voters about their perception of who appealed to them the most. Overwhelmingly, polls show Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine ranked the highest because of the solutions he presented and the credibility he has shown over the years. Next came Alexander Cummings and Benoni Urey while the Vice President came in last in the polls.
Senator George Weah of the Coalition of Democratic Change, one of the top five candidates, did not attend the debate, an action that prompted backlash from voters who felt they were disrespected by the Senator. Popular opinion is that Senator Weah is not comfortable with debates because he cannot articulate ideas for national development. Another opinion is that he is uncomfortable taking critical questions from journalists on what he has done so far as a senator from Montserrado County. Whatever the reason for his absence, Liberians were disappointed in the Senator. As for Cllr. Brumskine, he said he will be available anytime to speak to the Liberian people about his plan for the future. “Winning this first debate means little to me. What matters is that our people find hope in the future. We can change our country with the right leadership. And I am confident this time around, I will be trusted to bring substantive change to our country.” While the Liberty Party Standard Bearer is being modest, his supporters are excited that Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine has risen in the poll to become who many are now calling the presumptive winner of the pending elections in October.