The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) has expressed concerns over the unclean voter’s roll in the system of the National Elections Commission, stressing that if financial resources are not provided by the Executive Branch of Government, December 9, 2020, proposed date to conduct the midterm Senatorial -Elections may not hold.
During the 2017 presidential election, the late Liberty Party political leader and one of the contestants, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine went to the Supreme Court with a complaint of fraud in the election, and the high court ruled among other things that the voter roll should be cleaned to build public trust in the process. After the ruling in December that year, it was less than a week when the NEC announced the December 26 runoff date; something that the public believed was not done and still remains the same up to date.
In preparation for the conduct of the midterm senatorial election in December, the ECC is, therefore, calling on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to begin cleaning up the voter roll in keeping with the Supreme Court’s directive in its opinion of 2017. Any plan to conduct the 2020 senatorial election without cleaning up the voter roll will be a recipe for political conflict, instability and will undermine the integrity of the results.
“Any further delay in conducting the election could create a Constitutional crisis because the tenure of fifteen of the thirty senators would have expired and the law requires that each county is represented by two senators,” the ECC said in a release.
According to the ECC, it recognizes that the legal basis for the postponement of elections in Liberia was established by the Supreme Court’s opinion in 2014 when it ruled that a joint resolution signed by the National Legislature and the President was lawful.
The election observing body said it is on the basis of this opinion by the Supreme Court that the suspension of the 2014 Special Senatorial elections from October to December 2014 became legitimate. At the same time, the ECC has observed that between 2018 and 2019, joint resolutions were used to conduct three by-elections outside of Constitutional required timelines.
The ECC notes with concern that while these extreme measures are understandable during health crises such as Ebola and Coronavirus, it sets dangerous precedence when the underpinning reasoning for a joint legislative resolution to postpone an election is purely financial. “This practice and has implications for the conduct of future elections particularly when the country is anticipating holding general and presidential elections in 2023. The ECC warns that the practice of using joint resolutions to change Constitutional directives and mandates on when to conduct elections is undermining the country’s young and fragile democracy,” said the ECC.
The ECC argued further that Article 77B of the Constitution mandates that all eligible voters who turned eighteen years of age in an election year to be registered to vote. Based on this constitutional mandate, ECC says the NEC should inform the Liberian people whether it has the time to conduct a voter roll update in keeping with Section 3.1 of the New Elections Law if the government provides the needed funding.
In furtherance to the quest of voter roll cleaning, the ECC is also urging the National Legislature to exert its oversight function to ensure that the government provides the needed resources to the NEC to implement activities because elections are time-bound and a delay in the implementation of one activity undermines the timely completion of other activities.
Additionally, the ECC is also calling on the NEC to present a comprehensive plan to the National Legislature on how it intends to organize the election if and when it is pushed to December 9, 2020.
“Rushed activities in an election year may lead to unprofessionalism which will manifest itself on the day of the election, and this could undermine citizens’ trust in the election process and potentially threaten the democratic gains the country has made over the past twelve years,” said the ECC.
The ECC further admonished the President to nominate the Chairperson of the NEC so that the leadership of the Commission can be complete. It can be recalled that President George Weah nominated the controversial Ndubusi Nwabudike to the NEC in March, which met public resentment including the ECC and he (Weah) had to withdraw the nomination.
The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) is a civil society platform, comprising seven (7) organizations that observe elections in Liberia. The members include Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives (AGENDA); Center for Democratic Governance (CDG); Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP); Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD); NAYMOTE-Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-PADD); West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), and the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL).
The ECC works in partnership with the Liberia Accountability Voice Initiative (LAVI) with support from USAID.