By S. Karweaye
Since the war ended and the return of Liberia to democracy in 2006, the electoral process has been plagued by the tendency to monetize. Liberia has been battling with the hard luck of having responsible leaders. In a democracy, politicians are expected to respect the people equally regardless of their status.
In Liberia, just as in many countries of the world, free and fair elections constitute the central factor in ensuring democratic survival. Unfortunately, in Liberia’s case, money plays an important role in choosing who becomes a leader be it president, senator, or representative. Money politics has become a common feature in Liberia, arising from poverty, apathy, and competition on party manifestos, among others.
Vote buying and selling are consistent with the continued materialization and commercialization of political candidates in Liberia. Those with lower income status become prey for political candidates in vote buying, through the voter trucking scheme —transporting eligible voters from one place to the other to be registered — in exchange for financial gain after registration and voting process .
The ongoing 2023 Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise in Liberia is bringing to light the reality of votes buying through voter trucking. Delegates to the primaries of the two major parties were paid thousands of dollars to induce them to vote for one candidate or the other. This was an important factor in the electoral victory of most candidates at the primaries.
The U.S. The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned designee and former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to President George Weah and senatorial aspirant in Margibi County, Nathaniel McGill has been accused of trucking residents of Montserrado County to Margibi County to registered including students from the Christ the King Foundation High School in the VOA Community, Montserrado County.
In the 2020 midterm senatorial elections, votes buying were carried out with careless abandon by candidates in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties and in most cases, with the active participation of electoral officials and security agents. This was an important factor in the electoral victory of Mr. Edwin Snowe and Simeon Taylor in each of these counties which created the environment for the occurrence of electoral violence in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties.
The Electoral Act stipulates voter trucking is a violation of the law and provides some form of punishment for such electoral malpractice. But is the National Electoral Commission (NEC) willing to prosecute offenders? For example, Section 10.1a of the law prohibits the trucking of voters. According to the law, such violation constitutes an electoral offense and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months or both. Also, Section 3.1 of the Electoral Act also states: “A person must register to vote at a voter registration center established by the NEC for the place where he or she ordinarily resides and must vote at the polling place established by the NEC for voters registered at that center.”
Therefore, steps must be taken by the government, in collaboration with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in overhauling Liberia’s electoral system to make it more difficult for monetary influences and other malpractices. Any meaningful attempt to stem electoral fraud in Liberia must consider the wide gap between the poor and the rich. There is no doubt that poverty has impacted negatively on the electoral behavior in Liberia, as it encourages buying and selling of votes by the electorate, aside from other malpractices.