Liberia: NEC’s Failure to Publish Final VR Raises Concerns

NEC Chairperson, Davidetta Browne Lansanah

…. "The NEC must explain to the Liberian people why they have failed to meet this fundamental legal requirement,” says Dr. Clarence Moniba, a presidential candidate for the Liberia National Union.

The National Election Commission (NEC) is facing allegations of violating its own regulations as Dr. Clarence Moniba raises concerns over the delayed release of the final voter roll for the highly contested October 10 polls.

The final voter roll, according to the Commission's own regulations, should have been made available to the public "30 days prior to the elections."

However, as of today, the NEC has yet to release the vital document, prompting  Moniba to question the commission's commitment to a free and fair election.

“The National Elections Commission has not yet released the final voter roll, which is not an oversight but a flagrant disregard for the Voter Registration Regulations it is expected to uphold,” says Moniba, a presidential candidate for the Liberia National Union.

"The NEC must explain to the Liberian people why they have failed to meet this fundamental legal requirement. We demand answers, and we demand them now," he added. "The truth is that the Commission's action is a recipe for chaos and undermines our democratic principles.”

Moniba's position comes after Afrobarometer reported in April of this year that popular trust in the electoral body remains weak as Liberia prepares for general elections. 

Afrobarometer, which is a pan-African, non-partisan survey research network, shows that only one-third of Liberians trust the Commission to conduct a fair election—a decline of 10 percentage points since 2018, even though most Liberians express confidence in the secrecy of their ballots.

The people of Liberia, Moniba noted, deserve an electoral process that is beyond reproach, upholds the highest standards of transparency and accountability, and “ensures the accurate reflection of the people's will in the results.” 

He  cited  the violation of Section 16.7 of the ‘2023 Voter Registration Regulations’ by the electoral body as an inexcusable and deliberate attempt to undermine fairness of the October 10 polls. 

 Section 16.7  of the regulation clearly states that the final voters' role cannot be altered “by the National Election Commission within 30 days prior to an election, except when the Supreme Court orders” 

The final voter roll, Moniba noted, plays a pivotal role in ensuring the fairness of elections. It provides the public, candidates, and election monitors an opportunity to review and verify the accuracy of the voter list, thereby reducing the potential for irregularities or fraudulent practices. 

“An early release knowing that changes cannot be made within 30 days to the election would have enhanced transparency and trust in the electoral process. But as  of today, with less than 18 days remaining until the elections,  the roll has not been released. 

"Therefore, I call on the authorities of NEC to immediately rectify this situation by publishing the final voter roll in accordance with the law. The Liberian people have the right to know who is eligible to vote in these elections, and they deserve to have confidence in the accuracy of the voter roll.

According to Moniba, the consequences of  the electoral body's “negligence,” as it stands, have been so far-reaching and  deeply troubling -- as it is “an uncover attempt to create room for electoral malpractice, fraud, and manipulation in favor of President Weah, who stands a limited chance for reelection.”

Moniba added that he will not sit idly by and watch the country “electoral process be used as a pawn” to “force an incompetent administration on the Liberian people.”

“Free and fair elections depend on transparency and adherence to regulations. It is disheartening to see that the NEC, the institution responsible for ensuring the integrity of our electoral system, has yet to fulfill its obligation of providing the final voter roll to the public 30 days before the elections."

"We will not be silenced, and we will not waver in our pursuit of a fair and just election," he noted. We will continue to press for the immediate release of the final voter roll and for the National Election Commission to fulfill its duty to the Liberian people.”

Meanwhile, Moniba has noted that if the authorities of the electoral body "fail to heed this call and continue down the path of illegality and opacity," he will be left with no choice but to explore all available legal avenues to ensure that "the electoral regulations of Liberia are upheld."