Liberia: ‘Delay, Uncertainty of Elections Process, A Recipe for Crisis’
.... According to the observers, the delay could cause qualified voters not to be captured to vote in 2023 and the failure of NEC to reapportion constituencies based on the new population figures in adherence to Article 80 (d) and (e) of the Liberian Constitution.
With all eyes on Liberia ahead of the much anticipated 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections, concerns are mounting from all major stakeholders over the delays to put in place key prerequisites to the conduct of the electoral process.
The latest expression of concern comes from the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and the Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON), with the two frontline organizations in the elections business expressing grave concern over the slow pace of progress by the National Elections Commission (NEC) on key processes leading toward the holding of the 2023 elections.
NEC is the authorized body responsible for the conduct of elections for all public offices within the territorial confines of Liberia. In a joint statement read on behalf of the groups at a news conference held at the weekend, Atty. Oscar Bloh stated that such delays leading to the conduct of the electoral process are an early warning indicator for conflict and, as such, it should not be taken lightly.
The groups noted that the credibility of voter registration is a prerequisite for the conduct of a credible election; therefore due care must be taken in the conduct of this exercise.
“The credibility of elections is key to sustaining the peace and security of the state and this process requires time, openness, inclusion, and timely allocation of resources from the national government to undertake major activities leading up to election day,” he indicated.
ECC and LEON also pointed out that the delays in the conduct of the National Housing and Population Census (NHPC) and Voter registration run several risks that could undermine the peace and security of the state, coupled with the credibility of the process.
According to the observers, the delay could cause qualified voters not to be captured to vote in 2023 and the failure of NEC to reapportion constituencies based on the new population figures in adherence to Article 80 (d) and (e) of the Liberian Constitution.
Additionally, the two institutions say it is “shocking that, with less than one year before the elections, these pre-required processes, which should have already been concluded, are yet to begin. Liberia uses the census and voter registration as the base data for the delimitation and, with the delay and uncertainty, chances are the country may run into a crisis leading to mal-apportionment and distorting the equality of representation. These factors combined have the potential to reduce public trust in the electoral process,” the groups furthered.
ECC asserted that the back-and-forth proceedings between the NEC and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) are a clear demonstration of the lack of coordination and collaboration that are needed for the timely procurement of election materials, adding that the conduct of census and voter registration in the same year with limited awareness could undermine the quality of the electoral process and its outcome.
Based on the numerous concerns, the groups have made several recommendations to the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the responsible institutions including NEC and PPCC, to have an internal discussion to reach a compromise on the procurement of the BVR kit without necessarily violating the PPCC law and ensure the credibility and integrity of the process.
In so doing and in an effort to ensure transparency, the groups want the selection of the vendor by the NEC to be done in a transparent and accountable manner with the timely dissemination of information to the public.
“The NEC should engage LISGIS to develop a framework on how census data will be used for the reapportioning of constituencies. The international development partners supporting the conduct of the 2023 elections should regularly meet with political parties, the electoral management body, and CSOs on formulating scenarios that have the potential to undermine the electoral process and how they can be mitigated,” they furthered.
LEON and ECC are the largest domestic elections observation groups comprising a network of several civil society organizations in Liberia and are working together to ensure the credibility and integrity of electoral management in Liberia. LEON is funded by Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and ECC works in partnership with Democracy International, with funding from USAID.