The National Elections Commission (NEC) has clarified that it still remains committed to its recommendation for the postponement of the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election.
The Commission says it has been holding a series of consultations with important stakeholders, including authorities at the Legislature, and there is a likelihood of conducting the Election any time before January, 2015, in order to meet the constitutional date for the seating of senators to be elected.
Towards this end, the Commission was informed that the Joint Legislative Committee on Judiciary has been instructed to study the legal basis for the postponement of the election.
The Commission’s clarification comes against the backdrop of a report by the Voice of America Radio quoting NEC Chairman, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, as saying both Houses of the Liberian Legislature have mandated the Commission to hold the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election as scheduled, despite the current Ebola outbreak in the country.
The Commission, in a release, says it had earlier written both Houses of the Legislature and the President of Liberia informing them that given the grave nature of the Ebola outbreak in the country and the effect that such a disease could have on the conduct of the pending Special Senatorial Election, a free, fair, and credible Special Senatorial Election on October 14, 2014 will not be possible for the following reasons:
Given the constraints imposed by the national health emergency in the wake of the contagious Ebola virus disease (EVD), the Commission will not only be inhibited in fulfilling its mandate to recruit, but also to undertake the training of more than 25,000 temporary polling staff for deployment in the 4,701 polling centers across the country; 365 civic civic/voters educators for deployment throughout the 73 electoral districts spread across the 15 counties of Liberia as well as 400 electoral supervisors.
The Commission’s IT staff will not be able to go around the country to rehabilitate and connect internet facilities for the transmission of elections results.
The Commission is required to procure internationally ballot papers and printing services for the printing of 2,640,000 ballot papers, 78,750 mock ballots and 5,000 polling kits, all of which have to be flown into the country. The timely delivery of these materials, most of which are sensitive, cannot be guaranteed in the wake of the current wave of the suspension of flights to Liberia.
Under the present circumstances, political parties and senatorial aspirants in particular, would not be able to effectively conduct their campaigns, given that this part of the electoral process entails great deal of interactions, including physical contacts among candidates and their supporters, which is usually characterized by large gatherings.
Of the highest gravity is the fact that voters’ turn out in this atmosphere of fear and confusion would be very low, thereby undermining the credibility of the outcome of the election.
Overall, the Commission believes that mass movement, deployment and gathering of people, which is an inseparable characteristic of every democratic election, will not be possible without contravening current measures put in place by the government in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease and further exposing more Liberians to the deadly disease.
The NEC says these conditions are substantive enough to justify the postponement of the October 14, 2014 Election.
Meanwhile, the NEC says a new date for the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election will be announced.