…Calls for reform
Former Liberty Party (LP) standard bearer Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine has questioned the independence of the National Elections Commission (NEC), and has therefore called on the CDC-led government to allow reforms in the country’s electoral law before the 2023 presidential and legislative elections are held.
Brumskine said until the reforms are done, there is no guarantee that future elections will ever be free, fair, credible and transparent as portrayed in the tenets of democracy.
“We must understand that unless there is a comprehensive electoral reform, all of our ambitions, public utterances or condemnation would be exercises in futility,” he said.
Although it is not clear as to whether Cllr. Brumskine is still interested in coming back to the political stage, he appeared politically imbued on Monday, January 21, when he recently weighed-in on President George Weah’s first year of governance.
Brumskine said opposition political parties should not take for granted the need for a comprehensive electoral reform, which he said is probably one of the first and most important issues that should be tackled by opposition politicians.
“If we would like to have the will of the voters reflected in election results, we must insist on electoral reform before 2023 elections,” he said.
He said one of his recommendations for electoral reform is that political parties be given the chance and responsibility to recommend the names of individuals who would serve as commissioners of the NEC, with the commissioners being allowed to choose from among themselves a chairman, instead of the decision of nomination of those commissioners exclusively being left to the President, who is also head of the ruling political party that seeks re-election in each election.
“Electoral complaints against the NEC should be filed before a court that would be authorized by law to hear and determine such complaints, and not before the commission,” Brumskine suggested.
He added, “This does not have to entail extra-budgetary expenditure to create a new court. The jurisdiction of an already existing court may be expanded to include the adjudication of such electoral matters.”
He said during a confidence-building period between the NEC and opposition politicians, voter registration (VR) papers, machines, ballot papers and boxes, and other sensitive electoral materials should be kept in a sealed place, with several locks, and the keys thereof be assigned to the NEC and the agreed upon number of representatives of political parties, including the ruling party respectively.
“This will ensure that NEC staff and government officials would not have access to those materials in the absence of representatives of political parties,” he recommended.
Opposition Political Parties
Concerning opposition political parties coming together in a collaboration to take power from the ruling CDC in 2023, Brumskine said the idea is good, but should not be for the sake of individuals getting jobs for their “selfish benefits.”
“Mr. Benoni Urey has taken the initiative of speaking with former presidential candidates to ensure that we come together and collaborate, for which I have commended him. I confirmed Ben, and I say to all Liberians that I am in full support of working together with others in the interest of our country,” Brumskine, a lawyer by profession, said.
He continued, “However, to ensure that our collaboration is meaningful, I suggest that opposition politicians work out a plan, with defined goals and objectives, for moving our country forward. Our collaboration must not be about jobs for ourselves, whether now or in the future; certainly, we must collaborate because we desire to change the status quo.”
He said if this is not the case, the collaborating opposition block would be like others who have criticized simply because they wanted to share in the spoils of government, but without an idea of what governance is all about.
Regarding President Weah’s leadership performance in 12 months, but Brumskine expressed displeasure and said he wished Weah and his supporters could not have proceeded in the form and manner they are leading the country.
“Usually in liberal democracies, a newly elected President is allowed a relatively brief period, during which he or she is given leeway with respect to changes he or she wishes to make,” he said, noting further that President Weah was expected to get a lot done during this “honeymoon period.”
“In our case, as an elder statesman, I decided to allow President Weah and his government a year to get adjusted before addressing issues of national concern, realizing that the learning curve for our newly elected president would be relatively steep,” he said.
Brumskine said: “Regrettably though, the shortcomings and missteps over the last 12 months have engulfed every aspect of our national life, with constitutional check and balance, which characterize a democratic government in an obvious state of disarray.”
“The allegations of corruption, misuse of public funds, and outright stealing are just small parts of the problems that afflict our nation today; and the culture of impunity accentuates it all,” he alleged.
He said it is his hope that President Weah speaks on the progress from the investigation on the missing L$16 billion, the US$25 million said to have been used for a mop up between the domestic currency and the United States dollar, which is the second yet more powerful currency in the country.
Cllr. Brumskine retired from active politics for the second time in his political career after the 2017 presidential elections, which were disputed and challenged several times at the NEC and the Supreme Court.