Speaking on Farbric Radio (101.1 FM) Tuesday, September 17, the Elections Coordination Committee (ECC) spokespersons Oscar Bloh and Malcolm W. Joseph announced the next wave of citizen engagement on electoral reform information dissemination.
After rounds of multi-stakeholder policy dialogues and county wide consultations, and with the ECC reform propositions now before the Legislature, a new phase of activity begins, bringing in more members of the citizenry, or electorate. According to Liberia’s premier electoral reform body, it is now time for all Liberians to “get to know” about the process of reform, and the role of various stakeholders, especially the voters themselves.
“Our work is to broaden the space for public dialogue and understanding,” said Bloh, in his capacity as Chairman of the ECC steering committee.
“People need to know the rationale for what we are doing. That is why we are utilizing media platforms…We are galvanizing the support of the electorate,” added Joseph.
Both the ECC and presidential propositions consider the issue, although with different terms on offer. Present Weah’s suggestion is to amend or change the constitution so that the President and Vice President serve for 5 rather than 6 years, while Senators serve for 7. The ECC on the other hand, in alignment with citizen feedback from both the constitutional reform (2012-2015) and just ended electoral reform consultations, prefers a reduction to 4 years for all elective offices, excluding senators who would serve for 6 years.
As ECC works from one angle, other electoral reform partners are bringing the issues directly to the people in their own way. For some, that’s through streaming videos on key reform propositions like the reduction of tenure for elected officials.
The co-produced “Tenure Reduction” video opens with the narrator stating that at least 75% of the population in 34 of Africa’s 54 countries have expressed interest in term limits. In other words, “Africans are asking for a change in how long their leaders stay in office’’.
From there the video highlights what is happening in Liberia, approaching the issue primarily from the perspective of democratic accountability to the interests and aspirations of the electorate, and to “generational change” – a buzzword in the 2017 general elections and as the Weah administration began its first appointments. Listeners hear the distinct voices of Liberians such as Eddie Jarwolo, founder and Executive Director of ECC member organization NAYMOTE, Margibi District 2 Representative Ivar Jones, and youth leader/Co-chair of the National Children’s Representative Forum, Mohammed Cheto Jalloh, among others.
Longevity in political tenure is a negative factor in youth empowerment and generational reform, the narrator says. And, ”it’s a matter of being patriotic and being nationalistic’’, Representative Jones adds.
Youth make up the majority of our population, but year after year, opportunities for youth leadership lessen. Young people are systematically and passionately courted during ‘campaign season’ even as they are kept far away from realizing their own potential as leaders. Senators run again and again; representatives move from the House to nine-year senatorial terms of office, where ”they relax’’.
Meanwhile, Liberian youth, like their counterparts across the continent, are tired of being only supplementary to the political process – they have political vision, and will, of their own. ”I have ideas…I am capable. [How long] do you expect me to wait?’’ asks Jalloh.
”We [the ECC] don’t make laws,’’ Bloh expressed on air. But we, the people, will have to vote on them as the nation moves toward electoral transformation.