With a little over eight months to the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial Election, the Liberian Senate at its 20th day sitting Tuesday, March 25, mandated the Secretary of the Senate to invite commissioners of the National Elections Commission, (NEC) to appear before that body on Thursday, March 27, at 1:00 p.m.
The Senate took the decision after a communication from the Senate Chair on Autonomous Commission and Agencies, Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor was read, requesting plenary to grant permission for NEC to update plenary on its activities.
Senator Taylor’s communication dated March 24, reads: “Dear ….I convey my compliments and herewith submit a letter from the National Elections Commission in relation with a request to update Plenary on the commission’s activities…on the ongoing electoral process of the 2014 Special Senatorial Election.
According to the communication, “the information received from the Commission is alarming as there are indications that the funding needed for the successful conduct of the 2014 election is not yet received.”
The letter concluded: “In consideration of this information and with less than five months to the electoral season, I like to personally request that the Senate allows NEC Commissioners to meet with plenary on Thursday, March 27, at 1:00 p.m. in order to make a full report on these activities…”
But the Senator’s communication, despite the importance attached to it, did not go easily without the normal heated debates, especially from Senators who are facing the political surgeons’ knives in the October election.
For instance, Grand Gedeh County Senator Alphonso Gaye suggested that the Taylor-led committee firstly meet with NEC, and thereafter, brief the plenary.
However, Senator John Ballout differed with Gaye, saying that though the Senate works at the level of committees, but that the committees themselves have their own problems in trying to get certain things across.
“If NEC does not come forth and explain the difficulties they are going through, especially with donor funding, it is our democracy that will be interrupted and put in jeopardy. So considering how fragile and as complicated as it is…I pray the plenary to grant this request.”
Defending her communication, Senator Taylor re-echoed her plea warning her colleagues not to belabor the issue too much. “There are some very critical issues pertaining to the operations of the 2014 elections that are beyond the committee at this point. That is why I would like to make a recommendation that they come to us on Thursday and make a full report. These are national issues we can no longer handle, and that is why I wrote the letter for them to come and make a full report as to what is obtaining; they have the potential to really offset some the work they have already done across the country.”
As usual, Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper had a different view especially with respect to the functions of the various committees. “I think committee supposed to be one of the strong body pillars of this honorable body, and for us to continue to make plenary a committee; I think we are degrading the stature of committees, and committees’ work.
I don’t know what could be so important that a committee that is responsible for oversight of NEC would not do the work and bring this work to the full plenary without doing proper investigation and information to inform this plenary. We keep overlooking committees and opening plenary into a committee room. So I agree that this thing should be done in committee room.”
The Senate is currently debating the final draft of the 2013 proposed Electoral Reform Laws by the National Elections Commission (NEC), and recently voted unanimously to maintain a portion of that law that calls for gender equity representations by political parties, during submission of names of candidates for an election.
According to Section 4.5 (1A) as approved by the Senate; “A political party or coalition in its submission to the commission, of its list of candidates for an election should endeavor to ensure that the governing body and its list of candidates has no less than 30% of its members from each gender.”
The purpose of the 30% according to the amended reform law as explained under (1B) “is to support the move towards gender equity in the representation of both genders in the governance of political parties and in the lists of candidates they present for every election.”