Harold M. Aidoo, executive director of the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), has called for dialogue between the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and the National Elections Commission (NEC), to resolve the impasse to conduct the pending by-elections for Montserrado and Bong counties.
Aidoo spoke on UNMIL radio last Thursday, saying that it was important as an institution to quickly intervene for the two bodies to work together, to be able to conduct the by-elections.
He noted that following the submission of the NEC’s budget to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), his organization has since observed that there have been delays for its implementation which, according to him, does not mean well to move the country forward.
“We think the position taken by the Ministry of Finance saying it does not have money, also doesn’t augur well for our country’s emerging democracy,” he said. He pointed out that looking at 2017 Representative and Presidential Elections, there were a lot of challenges, and therefore there is a need to upgrade the financial support to the NEC.
He said everyone knows the constraint faced by the NEC in the recent elections in terms of logistics, recruitment, and training, as well as hiring contractors, among others.
“The NEC has been repeatedly complaining of low budget support, and here comes another elections, how will the by-elections be conducted if the Ministry is saying there is no money?” he said.
Mr. Aidoo further noted that it is essential that the Ministry of Finance changes its position and provides the needed support to the NEC, to conduct the elections.
“If the ministry does not have what was proposed to them by the NEC, there could be another option given to the NEC that will help to avoid confrontation between them.
“We also think that this is a recipe for disaster, and this situation can be exploited by any incumbent to strangulate the electoral management body and send the outcome of the elections in their favor,” he said.
Mr. Aidoo also said that if the by-elections for the two counties must be free, fair, transparent and credible, the Ministry must dialogue with the NEC to find a way forward, noting that it is also important to understand that elections are expensive.
He added that Montserrado and Bong constitute about half of the total voting population that “we have in the country,” which he said means that if there is a need for any recruitment by the NEC definitely it has to be costly.
Meanwhile, he disclosed that IREDD as an institution has already begun to engage civil society organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders, to have a dialogue between the two entities.
“We have already met with the NEC chairman, and we also intend to engage the Ministry of Finance very soon, telling them that this is a national issue; as such, it needs to be resolved,” he added.
It may be recalled a month ago that the National Elections Commission proposed a budget of US$3.9 million to the Ministry of Finance, to conduct the by-elections for Montserrado and Bong counties, something which the Ministry frowned on and has become a heated debate between the Ministry and the NEC.
The two positions at the Liberian Senate were created when Senator George M. Weah of Montserrado County and Senator Jewel H. Taylor of Bong County respectively won the nation’s highest seats as President and Vice President.