Prince Moye, Deputy Speaker of the 54th Legislature recently pledged with his colleagues in the Legislature to work with the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) to develop an all-inclusive bill on electoral reform, prior to the holding of next elections.
Rep. Moye spoke recently at a one-day ECC stakeholders’ national conference on electoral reform held in Monrovia under the theme, “Strengthening Liberia’s Democracy through Electoral Reform.” The event was held in collaboration with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) with support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The electoral reform conference brought together members of the Legislature, representatives from the National Elections Commission (NEC), civil society actors, development partners, political parties, youth and women leaders, legal practitioners, and the media from across the 15 counties.
“The House Committee on Elections and Inaugurations, as the technical working arm of the House, will work with CSOs in partnership with ECC to focus on the actions that will address the issues as outlined in the electoral reform priorities,” Moye told the gathering.
He said since the 2005 general and presidential elections, electoral reform has become an acceptable part of the entire process, because it provides the opportunity to conduct a genuine and credible elections.
Moye added, “electoral reform is set out to use the opportunity through the stakeholders to assess the overall election processes and make recommendations that will significantly impact the credibility of the elections. Therefore, electoral reform is crucial and important to deepen and consolidate the democratic gains.”
He said the reform process identifies specific problems including changing election time, candidate qualifications, age limit and tenure of elected officials, etc.
The Bong County District #2 lawmaker said electoral reform will help Liberians to gather information about issues emanating from every election. Addressing these issues, he added, will help improve the overall integrity of the next process, as well as helping to adhere to international and regional standards.
Rep. Moye described the reform as part of the broader democratic reform mechanism to make every government more credible in the eyes of the public and build their confidence.
Cllr. Boakai Kanneh, Chair, Law Reform Commission (LRC), said in each round of elections, Liberians learn from their experiences and mistakes, which leads to the reform in the election laws, apply new principles and policies to the way elections are conducted for the next process.
Cllr. Boakai said the growing necessity for electoral reform became even more compelling after the series of national upheavals that rocked the country’s election process, as well as the attendant need for building a more cohesive society on the rule of law.
He said Liberia is a country that continues to improve its laws to ensure a society where the rights of everyone are guaranteed irrespective of gender, religion, tribe, socioeconomic standing, political identity, and all other forms of divisive tendencies.
Cllr. Kanneh told the gathering that the recent 2017 presidential and legislative elections brought a national spotlight on the electoral system, and reignited calls for greater reforms in the election laws.
“I also hold strongly that the tenure of NEC Commissioners must be guaranteed by the Constitution, notwithstanding their removal for proved misconduct or incompetence in accordance with due process of law,” he said.
Cllr. Kanneh said the recent trends have shown that, as Liberia’s population size increases and many people become inclined to participate or contest in elections, as well as seeking legal remedy when dissatisfied with the outcomes of elections, the NEC becomes overwhelmed with the barrage of complaints. Some of the complaints, he noted, are with merits, while others are based on mere impulses or misunderstanding of the law.
He said to ensure NEC remains neutral and more focused on running the election systems and mechanisms, it would be prudent that elections disputes are placed in the domain of the Judiciary early in the adjudication process, not at the very terminal stage, when it goes to the Supreme Court.
“Critics have opined that the NEC cannot be the accused and, at the same time, be the judge to decide its wrongdoings,” Cllr. Kanneh said.
At the ECC Conference, participants presented a-six count resolution, which is intended to address electoral challenges that were occasioned with previous elections.
Those counts include: that there be a body independent of the NEC that is responsible for civic education in Liberia; that civic education be included in the national curriculum for schools; that Article 83 (a) of the 1986 Constitution be removed and a new timeline for election be prescribed in the new elections law, and that the government and partners invest in the biometric voter registration process, leveraging on the National Identification Registry currently ongoing across the country.
It was also resolved that the government make financial resources available ahead of time to enable the NEC to prioritize early planning and procurement of election materials and logistics; that the formulation of the Political Party Act be prioritized by the legislature; that Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Conduct on political participation be repealed and that Article 83 (c) be amended to allow the establishment of an independent electoral tribunal.