The Center for Development and Election Management (CEDEM) says ruling by the Supreme Court in 2014 to remove the “Rremedial Provision” in the 1986 Elections Law is causing multiplicity of complaints and stress for the National Elections Commission (NEC).
The Remedial Provision contained in Chapter 6, section 2(1) and (2), provided for the seating of a candidate declared victorious by the National Elections Commission whose victory is contested by another candidate or party.
At a press conference on March 17, 2021 in Monrovia, CEDEM Executive Director, James M. Fromayan, said when the Remedial Provision was in place people were free to go to court in case of electoral matters, but while in court the candidates whose complaints are taken to the court will be certificated and seated. Thereafter, when the individual who ran to the supreme court is finally declared winner, the person who was certificated will be withdrawn and the person elected will occupies the seat.
“That is the benefit of the chapter, Cases that have no merit are all parked on the desk of the commission,” Cllr. Fromoyan said.
Fromayan who is also a former NEC Chairman said there is a need to start the biometric enrollment to constitute the method of our voter registration because the current Optical Marked Recognition (OMR) system has become “Obsolete.”
“There is a need to graduate to a biometric system that would make impossible double and multiple registrations that has become prevalent with the OMR system.”
According to him, the outdated manual system that is non-digital along with inefficient NEC data clerks is responsible for the voter registration fiasco that contaminated the 2017 Voter Registration Roll.
He added that it is alarming to note that the last process associated with the conduct of the senatorial election which is the certification of declared winners is yet to be finalized.
The CEDEM Chairman claimed that the conduct of the December 2020 senatorial election and Referendum was associated with limited civic education activities, non-transparent recruitment of polling staffs, a mobile voter roll update exercise decided by the NEC without the acquiescence of political parties.
Fromayan also said the procurement of indispensable voter roll update materials all contributed to the current situation NEC is faced with. “NEC committed an unprecedented act by hiring camera boys from the streets of Monrovia and other parts of the country with no regard to their partisan status.”
In continuation, he said it enable photographers to access crucial data such as the negatives of the photos thus making the duplication of photos possible, stressing that it is important that the NEC avoids repetition of acts that have the potentials to derail the peace and stability of the country.
Recalling the recent voters trucking saga involving some politicians, Fromayan said the trucking of voters undermines the credibility of the electoral process, adding that while it is true that the practice predates the incumbency of the current commissioner of the NEC, it is significant to note that the practice was so pronounced during the last voter roll update exercise to the extent that it gave rise to violence in the counties of Bomi, Grand Cape Mount County and Gbarpolu that led to injuries and destruction of properties.
“We call on NEC to muster the courage and work with civil society organization, the religious community and political parties to collectively work with the Legislature to ensure the passage of an appropriate law that would curtail the practice of trucking of voters,” Cllr. Fromoyan said on behalf CEDEM.
Fromoyan also pointed out that NEC has failed to certificate Brownie J. Samukai two months after his victory without giving any justifiable reason, something that gives the impression that the NEC is allowing outside influence in its work.
“It is a disturbing development that the election management that is supposed to be independent is acting otherwise.”
Additionally, the CEDEM Executive Director said the case involving Madam Edith Gongloe-weh and Representative Jeremiah Koung in Nimba has evidence produced which clearly authenticates the occurrence of fraud and massive irregularities that impacted the results.
“CEDEM attention has been drawn to the situation in Gbarpolu County where violence was perpetrated against Botoe Kanneh by supporters of the ruling party in an effort to intimidate her along with her supporters. Notwithstanding, it is clear that Kanneh is in a comfortable position to be declared and certificated as winner,” said the Executive Director.
“CEDEM is seizing this opportunity to call on NEC to resolve in a timely manner all outstanding cases including those of Rivercess and Grand Cape oMunt in an effort to enhance the credibility of the commission,”
For these reasons, Cllr. Fromoyan said CEDEM is recommending to NEC that the 1986 Election Law relating to re-run or results be restored by the Legislature prior to 2023 and the use of biometric system.
CEDEM in its quest to ensure free and fair election wants NEC to be solidified by the GoL, granting it financial autonomy status in the form of making available to the commission on a semi-annual basis budgetary allocation to ensure that the commission focuses on the execution of its duties rather than daily trips to the ministry of finance in search of funding.
Also CEDEM wants NEC to ensure credible and speedy resolution of electoral disputes, an electoral tribunal established to adjudicate electoral cases, and the NEC Board of Commissioners membership be reduced from seven to five as it was before 1997.
CEDEM also wants the power given the President to nominate and appoint commissioners to be reviewed with the objective of inserting a vetting mechanism that would ensure that the collective interest is protected.