The National Democratic Institute (NDI) has fielded a delegation from Africa and North America to assess preparations for Liberia’s October 10 presidential and legislative elections. The delegation, according to a press release from NDI, consists of regional and election experts from Africa and North America, including Hanna Tetteh, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament (Ghana); Ambassador Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Member of the Board of Directors, NDI (United States); Dr. Tadjoudine Ali-Diabacte, former Deputy Director of the Electoral Assistance Division, United Nations (Togo); Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Regional Director, NDI (Cameroon); Samantha Smoot, Observation Mission Director, NDI (United States); and Michael McNulty, Senior Program Manager, NDI (United States).
“The elections represent a historic moment for Liberia as the country will have an opportunity for a peaceful transfer of power from one democratically-elected president to another,” said Amb. Carson. “Liberia has come a long way to consolidate its democracy, and Liberians can take great pride in the example they are setting for the region,” added the NDI release. The purpose of the mission is to assess the ongoing campaign period, and to evaluate the overall political environment and other aspects of election preparations aimed at enhancing prospects for peaceful and credible polls.
During its initial engagement in Liberia in February this year, the NDI pre-elections assessment delegation made note of certain challenges to the process, including infrastructure, dissatisfaction with current elected officials and “…lingering grievances persist from previous election-related disputes. Against this backdrop, the NEC and security services may face challenges in effectively carrying out their responsibilities in light of diminished international assistance,” they said. That delegation included Dr. Fomunyoh and Mr. McNulty, who are also on this delegation.
Based on their findings at the time, the delegation made the following recommendations to key stakeholders in the process:
- National Election Commission – Intensify voter education during the remaining days of the voter registration process, with a particular emphasis on outreach to rural communities, women and youth; intensify planning and logistical preparations for election day; and engage in more proactive, timely, and accurate public communication to share the Commission’s work/activities.
- Political Parties – Urge all supporters and party members to register to vote; reaffirm a commitment to peaceful and credible elections; update the Code of Conduct signed in 2011; and recruit and train in advance party agents for the October polls.
- State Institutions and Security – Prioritize and expedite funding of electoral operations and security budgets; and expand and publicize election violence mitigation efforts as a means of enhancing citizen’s confidence with regards to election security.
- Civil Society – Intensify civic and voter education regarding the registration process, particularly among women, youth and rural communities; and integrate into systematic pre-election observation data collection on triggers of electoral violence.
- Media – Intensify efforts to educate voters about voter registration and the electoral process more broadly; and promote responsible, objective, and issues-oriented election reporting, and refrain from using inflammatory language and disseminating misinformation.
While in Monrovia from September 4-8, the delegation will hold high-level meetings with the authorities at the National Elections Commission (NEC), presidential candidates, government officials, political party leaders and civil society representatives. “Under the right circumstances, each Liberian that votes will be making a significant choice about the future direction of the country,” said Dr. Fomunyoh. “We are interested in learning how various stakeholders prepare to ensure the credible and inclusive elections that the Liberian people deserve.”
The delegation will present its mission findings at a press conference in Monrovia on Friday, September 8 at 10:00 a.m. at the Royal Grand Hotel.
According to NDI literature, the organization has conducted more than 150 election observation missions in 62 countries over the last 25 years. The entity first worked in Liberia in 1997, providing technical assistance to Liberia’s voter education and election monitoring efforts. The institute has maintained a permanent in-country office in Liberia since 2003.