The National Elections Commission (NEC) on Thursday June 20, 2019 concluded a day long Electoral Reform Consultations meeting with traditional leaders in Gbarnga Bong County.
Giving the framework of the meeting, Upper Bong County Senior Magistrate Daniel G. Newland said the gathering is the result of recommendations made by local and international bodies after the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
“During our elections in 2017, different groups of organizations came into this country to observe the conduct of the elections and after the elections they made recommendations, it is from these recommendations we are calling our people to acquaint them (citizens) with these recommendations,” Mr. Newland explained.
Mr. Newland admitted that the National Elections Commission (NEC) has not done well in the past in terms of providing information to the citizens relating to recommendations coming from partners ahead of elections.
“We can only call you to meeting when elections are coming but this time around, we want to have your contributions on these recommendations not only for the 2020 senatorial election but for elections to come,” he said. “When these recommendations are put forth before the citizens, they’ll have the time to go back and hold town hall meetings with their people so that in the next consultation, they will already know what they are bringing on the table.”
Mr. Newland disclosed that the gathering discussed several recommendations which include legal reform, for example the adjudication of elections disputes and complaints, the Code of Conduct which requires resignation of civil servants and government appointees 2 to 3 years before elections, civic and voter education which the New Elections Law (NEL) gives the NEC the authority to conduct civic and voter education and the date of elections to be changed, among others.
The gathering, under the topic, “Enhancing Citizens’ Participation in the Electoral Reform Process of Liberia”, brought together more than 50 participants from Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties as well as officials from the NEC, CSOs and partner organizations.
Mr. Newland told the Daily Observer that a similar meeting was held in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County and will continue in Bomi County for the Western Region and Grand Bassa County for Central-Southern Region which includes Margibi, Grand Bassa and River Cess Counties.
He said the consultation exercise is being funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Participants who spoke to the Daily Observer lauded the NEC for the consultations but emphasized the need for electoral reform on the elections date and the adjudication of disputes. They suggested that elections-related complaints be handled by another institution other than the NEC and that civic voter education should not be done only when elections are on hand, among others.
“On the issue of the National Code of Conduct for public officials to step down from their posts in advance of contesting elections, such should be carefully reviewed to ensure that they are not overly restrictive on the right of persons to contest as candidates” a middle-aged female participant stressed.
Meanwhile, participants have vowed to take the message to their respective communities and urged the NEC to always provide the necessary education whether elections are on hand or not.