As part of their efforts to ensure free, fair and transparent elections come 2017, a local civil society organization, Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), has begun accessing the legal framework for the purpose.
Oscar Bloh, chairperson of the ECC, made the disclosure over the weekend at a resort in Monrovia attended by representatives of political parties, local and international partners and other civil society actors.
Mr. Bloh said elections are held based on laws and regulations, and if such laws and regulations are not responsive to the current situation, especially in a political context, then they pose challenges for holding free, fair and transparent elections.
He added that it was important to share the gaps identified in conducting the presidential and other elections to all political parties to ensure that they have firsthand information on how to handle them ahead of the elections.
“This is why we thought that it’s very important to review the 1986 Constitution that was amended in 2014, and see some of the challenges to be aware of as we enter the 2017 elections,” he said.
According to him, the ECC also sees some of the laws as ambiguous, for which he said they will continue to work with political parties and the National Elections Commission (NEC) to ensure that voters and political parties are educated on the unfolding issues.
“We have a law today that says if the candidates or party is disenchanted and want to file a complaint, the witnesses must sign; and our legal system does not require that. Witnesses are not party to a complaint. There is nowhere where witnesses can be parties to a complainant, he said.
He also noted that there are times when parties encounter problems with the people or individuals of NEC; but it is ironic that only the NEC is mandated to investigate or look into the matter which, he said, poses a serious problem.
“We are now concerned about the civil education that hasn’t started, because we need to educate the ones that have reached 18 and will be participating in the 2017 general and presidential elections. These are the new voters and may not know where to vote or register. NEC has to accelerate the process,” he added.
Gabriel Smith, Representative of Grand Bassa County, said he believes the National Code of Conduct will create a serious problem during the 2017 elections if nothing is done to handle the situation, especially its interpretation by the Supreme Court.
“There is a need for the court to move in a timely manner to ensure that there is a clear explanation or clear opinion provided to the people of Liberia so that it will not serve as one of the contentious issues in the upcoming elections,” he said.
He said there are some clear provisions within the Code of Conduct that require Liberians working in government to resign with the view of creating a level playing field; unfortunately, since the enactment of the Code of Conduct, the law has not been respected by the very Liberians calling on the Legislature to pass the Bill.
“We need to look at the Code of Conduct as soon as possible to curtail any future conflict, especially in the 2017 elections. If a Minister or any official is using his assigned official vehicle to campaign and someone in the same district does not have such a capacity, he stands to be a victim of the opportunity, which may lead to conflict,” Rep. Smith said.