Wants NEC to instill public confidence; calls on gov’t to ensure all candidates have equal access to public facilities
With the irregularities that were reported during the Voter Registration (VR) exhibition still fresh on the minds of the electorate, calls have started to emerge for the NEC to do all in its power to cultivate public confidence in the electoral exercise to ensure peaceful elections.
The VR exhibition was overshadowed by reports that the names and photos of many who had registered at the various centers across the country were missing. Exacerbating the skepticism was the pronouncement by the NEC chairman, Jerome George Korkoya, that everyone with a valid voter registration card would be allowed to participate in the electoral process.
With another phase of the electoral process, which has to do with the start of campaigning, the local election monitoring group – the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) – has called on the NEC to execute all the phases of the electoral process in a more transparent manner in order to instill confidence in the overall electoral exercise.
At a press conference held in Monrovia yesterday, the ECC commended the NEC for releasing a summary of the final voter registration figures, with names, gender, age, districts, and locations, but wondered whether this listing addressed the issue of some missing names and photos linked to the Provisional Registration Roll (PRR).
ECC chairman Oscar Bloh called on the NEC to make public the detailed voter registration roll that highlights the particulars of every voter as this will help political parties and independent candidates to better plan for their campaign.
“The call for a peaceful political transition is critical to the country’s democratic process and must be marked by positive actions from all stakeholders involved in this electoral process,” he said.
The ECC’s argument was from the backdrop that the registration process was marred by several irregularities especially with registration taking place in private homes, with some individuals arrested and registration materials seized.
The area of contention, though, was that if indeed everyone with a valid voter card, which would probably include those that registered at private centers, are to be allowed to vote as the NEC chairman indicated, where is the transparency in the electoral process?
It is in this regard that the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) has called on the NEC to make available its electronic voter list to relevant partners in an effort to ensure transparency in the process.
The ECC also urged all political parties to provide their campaign timetables to the NEC, the Liberian National Police, and the county authorities so that the use of public facilities for campaign purposes do not create unnecessary tension and conflict between supporters of political parties.
“We want to call on county authorities to ensure that all parties and independent candidates have equal access to the use of public facilities to carry out campaign activities,” Bloh said.
The ECC also called on political parties and independent candidates to engage in political debates and refrain from personal attacks as well as the use of divisive, inflammatory, abusive, profane, and hateful speeches that could incite or drive their supporters to engage in violence that has the potential to undermine the peace and security of the country.
“We also call on the leaders of political parties to urge their supporters to refrain from provocative acts that could incite violence, including the destruction and tearing down of campaign materials (posters and billboards). The political transition that we all desire cannot be done peacefully if the campaign and other electoral events are marked by violence,” Mr. Bloh said.
The ECC also urged political leaders to uphold the principles and intent of the Ganta and Farmington Declarations to conduct a violence-free campaign.
Level Playing Field
In order to contribute to a level playing field, Mr. Bloh called on all parties to refrain from the use of state resources to engage in any form of campaigning. In this regard, the ECC called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to use her good offices to ask all members of her government holding executive positions in any political party to resign so that their service in government does not come in conflict with campaigning activities, with reference to the Code of Conduct (Section 5.1) or the New Elections Law.
He stressed the issue of campaign financing, urging that all candidates be in compliance with campaign finance laws and regulations. According to the electoral laws of Liberia, no party or independent candidate should spend more than US$2 million and no local corporate entity should provide more than US$100,000 to any contestant.
The dates of some electoral events can be changed or extended but the date of election cannot be altered as it is a constitutional requirement. In this vein, the ECC chairman called on the government to provide the financial support that the NEC needs to implement its activities.
The ECC also challenged the media to be conflict sensitive in covering the campaign and not to use their channels to allow politicians to engage in negative campaigning. “The media must be perceived as being neutral and it has the moral responsibility to promote civil campaigning in order to prevent any form of electoral violence,” he said.
Meanwhile, in preparation to observe the campaign, Mr. Bloh disclosed that the ECC has conducted training for its 32 long term observers to cover all the 73 electoral districts. These observers will be required to send in bi-weekly observation checklists and critical incident reports to the ECC information center.