— Says NAYMOTE’s Eddie Jarwolo, adding that the ongoing rift at the Commission is undermining the electoral body’s credibility to hold free, credible and transparent elections.
A leader of civil society has expressed concern that Liberia is now sitting on a time bomb if the board members of the National Elections Commission (NEC) fail to resolve their internal conflict and guarantee public trust ahead of the 2023 elections.
The concerns raised by Eddie Jarwolo, executive director of NAYMOTE Partners for Democratic Development, a pro-democracy civil society organization, come after the NEC’s co-chairperson, Cllr. Teplah Reeves, accused her colleague, Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah, of “flagrant disrespect” of the entire board of commissioners and the NEC’s procurement process.
This, Jarwolo believes, is grounds for conflict, as the ongoing rift at the Commission is undermining the electoral body’s credibility to hold, free, fair, and transparent elections.
“What is happening at the NEC is really troubling. Liberia is on a time bomb if NEC cannot resolve internal issues and focus on working as a team and a singular institution charged by the Constitution to conduct free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections,” said Jarwolo.
“Election conflicts are spontaneous, and people don’t need special training to cause chaos. Elections commissioners need to put national interest above their personal interests, put aside greed and selfish intentions, and focus on doing the right thing they are called to do.
“The fight among Commissioners at NEC is troubling and, should the situation continue and remain as it is now, we from the civil society fear there might be another war in Liberia,” Jarwolo noted.
President George Weah, according to Jarwolo, should see reason to work with the legislature and ensure the NEC works as the integrity institution it ought to be.
“If the people don’t believe in NEC, they will not believe in the police and the courts. They will take the law into their own hands. Nobody wants to spend about US$20 million to become president and sit around and watch the supposed integrity institution leak information here and there. If people lose trust in NEC, the whole country might become ungovernable,”Jarwolo added.
He noted that if there is any post-election conflict, it will be difficult to be resolved or managed internally; registering that NEC should be responsible enough to resolve all “petty issues”.
He said he has read messages from Commissioners of NEC getting at each other and some even in the press as well as on social media. He termed such messages as embarrassing and totally unnecessary for a responsible institution such as NEC.
Jarwolo said for President Weah to directly look into NEC’s internal conflict is in no violation of the law, pointing out that, in 2017, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had meetings with the NEC Board of Commissioners and she was always concerned that the Commission was not airing their internal crisis in the press.
Jarwolo said most of the Commissioners are politicians or people with political interest, therefore, there is a need for all board members to be out of the decision making processes on technical issues.
“Get them out and allow technicians to do their work and report to them. The board should be there to advise but not to be deeply involved in finding out who does this and who does not. They should leave the work with the appropriate and knowledgeable people,” he advised.
His concerns and admonition come at a time when NEC is struggling to conclude on awarding a contract for the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) to a responsive bidder that meets the necessary criteria according to the Commission’s bid document.
“The biometric should have been tested during the December 2020 Special Senatorial Elections and the National Referendum, but NEC did not do it. It has benefits, mainly about having a clean and credible voter roll but the timing is wrong,” Jarwolo indicated.