Wants NEC to make the final voters roll available by September 10 (last Sunday) to provide sufficient opportunity for voters to verify their status and check their details
The high-level delegation from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) that recently paid an observation visit to the country ended its mission over the weekend with calls to major stakeholders in the electoral process to ensure that the ensuing October polls are conducted and achieve a result that reflects the aspirations of the Liberian people.
Led by former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, the NDI delegation which was on a five-day observation mission in the country, included regional election experts who came to assess how prepared the National Elections Commission (NEC) is, and how other stakeholders are complying with the electoral process. The delegation offered recommendations on steps that can be taken in the remaining pre-election period to enhance confidence in the overall electoral process and foster peaceful, credible polls.
Amb. Carson told a news conference that the coming elections mark an historic milestone for the country, because it promises to be the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power from one elected president to another in over seven decades. Carson indicated that ensuring the trust of the voters requires transparency, exclusivity, accountability, continuous engagement and communication from all electoral stakeholders – which must be the bedrock upon which the polls should be conducted.
He expressed how satisfied the NDI team is with the level of the people’s involvement in the electoral process. “The people and institutions are taking the lead in consolidating democratic progress,” said Amb. Carson. “The delegation believes that the success of these elections will hinge on whether voters have confidence in the process and that, ultimately, their will is reflected in the outcome.”
While in the country, the delegation met with stakeholders including representatives of the NEC, presidential and legislative candidates, civil society representatives, and members of the international community. The delegation also met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The NDI team called on the NEC to provide the complete final voter registration roll in machine-readable format to political parties and accredited international and citizen election observers, as a further means of ensuring the integrity of the voters list. “We want the NEC to make the final roll of voters available by September 10 (yesterday) to provide sufficient opportunity for voters to verify their status and check their details,” he said.
Carson said the NEC should also ensure that election results are transmitted securely from magisterial offices to NEC headquarters and are announced in a timely, transparent manner. He called on all signatories to the Farmington River Declaration and the Ganta Declaration to adhere to those documents to promote and ensure peaceful conduct among candidates and their supporters.
Ambassador Carson also noted that no political party should usurp the role of the NEC by declaring election results—which is the sole responsibility of the commission. “In the process of collecting information from party agents in the polling stations, parties should take caution not to usurp the NEC’s responsibility for announcing official election results.
The politicians should raise awareness of and express zero tolerance for violence against women in the electoral process, including towards female candidates,” he said.
It is no secret that the poor state of infrastructure in the country might hinder some aspects of the electoral process, and this was highlighted by the NDI delegation. “There may still be logistical challenges with these elections,” another member of the delegation, Hanna Tetteh, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament (Ghana), said, “especially because of the state of infrastructure during the current rainy season. However, the Liberians we spoke with are enthusiastic about the elections and have faith in their ability to determine the outcome.” She called on civil society organizations and others to intensify civic and voter education, particularly among women and rural communities, especially in local languages. “They should also prioritize educating voters on how to fill out ballots properly in order to help reduce the invalid ballot rates,” she said.
Tetteh reemphasized that the media have a very critical role to play in such a critical period, and called on the media to promote and self-regulate adherence to the media code of conduct. “Report only verified information. Discourage inciteful language and dispel rumors. Clearly distinguish between articles written by journalists, editorials, and materials that are produced by outside sources and published for a fee,” she added.
NDI regional director Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh said the assessment mission is an integral part of NDI’s overall international election observation mission in Liberia, which also includes six long-term observers and four long-term analysts, who have been in Liberia since July, as well as an additional 34 short-term observers who will arrive and be deployed across Liberia to observe election day.
NDI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to supporting and strengthening democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government. NDI first worked in Liberia in 1997. The institute has maintained a permanent office in Liberia since 2003. Current NDI programs in Liberia, which include technical assistance for voter education, citizen election monitoring, women’s participation, and poll-watching for all political parties, are funded by USAID.