The National Elections Commission (NEC) and 20 registered political parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will enhance sharing of ideas and exchange of information.
The signing ceremony took place on Friday in the James M. Fromayan Conference Hall on the compound of the National Elections Commission.
The MOU styled “Inter-Party Consultative Committee” (IPCC) came from NEC’s strategic plan covering 2012-2018.
The strategic plan, among other things, seeks to strengthen the relations between political parties and the Commission, as well as enhance the integrity of the electoral process in Liberia.
Impressed by the signing, the Chairman of the House Committee on Elections and Inauguration, Grand Bassa County Representative Gabriel Buchanan Smith said, “The signing of the MOU by political parties demonstrates that Liberians can have elections in the absence of UNMIL.”
Speaking earlier, NEC Chairman Jerome G. Korkoyah said the IPCC, since its establishment, has served as a useful tool for conflict management and information sharing between and among political parties on the one hand and the political parties and the Commission on the other.
He said “The IPCC has brought political parties and the Commission together to identify challenges in the electoral process and where legally feasible, find common solutions.”
“Our experience with the IPCC arrangement has shown that when political parties and the Commission work together, it reduces suspicion and promotes trust and cooperation,” Cllr. Korkoyah indicated.
Following the establishment of the IPCC, political parties and the Commission realized that the MOU establishing it needed to be revised to bring it up to speed with present day realities.
A committee headed by Jeanette Ebba-Davidson comprising representatives of political parties was constituted with the mandate to review and revise the MOU for consideration by the forum.
After a series of consultations, the NEC Chairman said the MOU was revised and approved by the parties in a two-day forum held on January 21 and 22, 2016.
“The revised MOU also calls for the declaration of a new code of conduct to guide political parties and their supporters before, during and after elections,” he added.
The NEC Chairman said the IPCC will provide the avenue whereby the Commission and political parties will be able to identify shortcomings in the electoral process and work together to correct them.
“Working closely with political parties in such a manner will not only help to foster a sense of ownership of the electoral process but will also reduce mistrust and complaints triggered by the lack of understanding of the process,” he added.
UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), Farid Zarif described the MOU as a sign of hope that Liberians are resolved to foster peace despite UNMIL’s drawdown.
EU Ambassador Tiina Intelmann said her institution has already committed US$10 million with the hope that the election will be supported to have a peaceful transition of power.
She, however, urged Liberian politicians to focus on the issues affecting the society and its people.
Grand Bassa County Representative, Gabriel B. Smith stressed the need for the National Elections Commission to be financially supported and for partisans to be educated by their representatives on the MOU so as to avoid misunderstanding.
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe for his part disclosed that the Liberian government was fully committed to supporting the NEC to achieve a smooth transition of power in 2017.
Representing political parties, Gladys Beyan of the Grassroots Democratic Party, said the signing was a milestone in the political history of Liberia since all political parties participated in it to build confidence in both NEC and each other.
She urged political parties and NEC to abide by their own rules and work together, considering Liberia as the common denominator.
Political parties that committed themselves to the memorandum of understanding include All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP); Alternative National Congress (ANC); Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD); Congress for Democratic Change (CDC); Grassroots Democratic Party of Liberia (GDPL); Liberty Party (LP); Liberia National Union (LiNU); Liberia Transformation Party (LTP); and Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP).
Others are the Movement for Economic Empowerment; Movement for Progressive Change (MPC); New Liberia Party (NLP); National Democratic Coalition (NDC); National Patriotic Party (NPP); People’s Unification Party (PUP); True Whig Party (TWP); Unity Party (UP); Union of Liberia Democrats (ULD) and Victory for Change.