… Of its commitment to consolidate Liberia’s ‘young democracy’
National Elections Commission (NEC) chair Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya has assured political parties, civil society organizations (CSOs) as well as special focused groups of the Commission’s commitment to consolidating the country’s democracy, a release has said.
“I want to assured you of the Commission’s continued commitment to working with political parties, CSOs, and special focused groups in the consolidation and nurturing of Liberia’s nascent democracy through the consistent and effective delivery of free, fair, and credible elections at all times, Korkoya said while declaring an official opening of the NEC Electoral Law Reform Consultation in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
According to the release, the Buchanan Law Reform Consultation is a high-level meeting of political parties, CSOs, and focused groups, including the media, religious groups as well as youth’s and women’s groups. The conference will also focus on general administration of NEC, voter registration, electoral justice and constitutional issues.
Following the 2017 presidential and representative elections, both local and international observer groups, totaling 102, recommended 144 legal electoral reforms. Of this amount, 107 recommendations came from Liberian observer’s groups. These recommendations were addressed to the NEC as well as the Executive and Legislative branches of the government . They were also sent to the Liberia National Police (LNP) and stakeholders, including political parties and civil society organizations.
Considering the importance of the recommendations and pursuant to 2.9 (c) of the New Elections Law, the Board of Commissioners (BoC) of the NEC constituted a Technical Working Group (TWG) headed by the deputy executive director for Programs of NEC, Nathan Garbie. The TWG is mandated to review recommendations, particularly directed at NEC, in order to identify a “Reform Agenda” to undertake in the period 2019 –2023.
Of the 144, the TWG considered 84 recommendations, accepted 59, declined 10 and decided to refer 15 to other institutions for their considerations. Of the 59, 32 can be acted upon through adoption of regulation (without prior change in legislation); adoption of policy or though strengthening implementation strategy.
The remaining 27 of the 59 requires changes to the Legislation (statutes) and Constitution of Liberia.
Cllr. Korkoya said the NEC is mandated by the Constitution under section 2.9 of the New Elections Laws of 1986 in order to “propose to the Legislature for enactment, amendment to, and appeal of any provision of the Elections Laws.”
He said that the Commission does this “through a three-segment electoral cycle: pre-election period, election period, and post-election period (the current period).”
Korkoya said that the Commission is “happy that the chairpersons and members of the committees on elections in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have been closely following this process.”
According to the release, Senator Milton Teahjay and Representative Alex Grant have been a part of the NEC’s nationwide consultations since its inception in June 2019.
Cllr. Korkoya also praised the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), USAID (United States Agency for International Development), EU (European Union), Irish Aid, and Canada for funding the consultation. He thanked ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and AU (African Union) for their support to the Commission.
The new UNDP Deputy Resident Representative for programs, Ms. Violet Baffour, thanked the Commission for living up to recommendations from national and international observer groups for electoral reform following the 2017 elections.
She added, “These consultations are vital in further strengthening public confidence and engagement in Liberia’s electoral process.”
However, Ms. Baffour said she would want “more attention and action in ensuring the participation of women, youth and persons with disabilities in the process.”
She said the reform, which includes the tenure of elected officials, change of election day, and amendments to the electoral dispute resolution “must be followed by a strong action.”
Ms. Baffour said the “historic 2017 elections in many ways signaled the growing maturation of Liberia’s young democracy. However, they also revealed some shortcomings in the electoral process that could threaten the credibility of future elections if not immediately addressed.”
USAID Deputy Mission Director Ms. Rebekah Eubanks said changing of the date of election from the rainy to dry season as well as altering of laws to include more female candidates “seem to be widespread agreements.”
“Accordingly, we will see these as items on the ballot for Constitutional Amendment,” she said.
Ms. Eubanks continued, “Liberia has shown that free, fair and transperant elections provide a reliable path from conflict to genuine peace and reconciliation.“
She added that “for peace to be sustained, the people must have unwavering faith in the electoral system and that it would truly allow their voices to be heard no matter their gender, ethnicity, economic status or political affiliation.”
The Buchanan high-level Electoral Law Reform Consultation will run from October 22-24, 2019. It follows series of consultations held across the country and which included local government officials, traditional leaders as well as women’s and youth’s groups.
The meetings were held in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, as well as in Gbarpolu and upper Montserrado counties. The second meeting, which was held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, brought together residents from Bassa, Margibi, River Cess, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Sinoe, Grand Kru and Grand Gedeh counties. The last consultation was held in Gbarnga and brought together more residents from Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties.
Upon completion of the consultations, the NEC will send a draft proposal for validation by the Legislature as well as for enactment.