Authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) have strongly warned aspirants of the upcoming October presidential and legislative elections against campaigning ahead of the exercise.
The warning comes with the elections barely nine months away. Although the campaign period is seven months away, NEC said it has smelt the scent of politicking in the air with various aspirants visiting their constituencies in the guise of “getting acquainted with the people.”
The NEC has therefore condemned incumbent or aspiring candidates who print their portraits on copy books, flyers, festival banners, streamers or any medium, for which the Commission threatened to reject candidates suspected of the act.
In a firm but scary tone, NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoyah said pre-campaigning is strictly against the NEC regulation.
“If they don’t put an end to suspected pre-campaigning messages, we will reject their application,” he threatened.
Korkoyah’s warning on Tuesday, January 24, was made in the Chambers of the House of Representatives when he was summoned to give clarity on some electoral issues. According to him, the specifics on the restrictions and penalties for the “2017 presidential and representatives premature campaigning” would be released soon.
But a staff of NEC, who requested not to be named, told this newspaper that in the regulation, “premature campaigning” means electioneering conducted before the official campaign period.
“The intent of the prohibition was to level the playing field for candidates for public office to even opportunities between the rich or popular and the poorer or lesser-known aspirants, and to prevent the incumbents from enjoying undue advantages in exposure and publicity on account of public funds,” the staff said.
The staff also said the suspected violation is intended to be a serious matter, adding, “Candidates found guilty of premature campaigning will be disqualified from continuing as candidates, or, if elected, could be prevented from holding office.”
Montserrado County District #6 Representative Edwin M. Snowe, one of the 66 Representatives seeking re-election, wonders whether Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is aspiring for the presidency, is pre-campaigning with his face on calendars and flyers distributed all around the country.
With Chairman Korkoyah’s advice “not to discuss sensitive electoral issues in public glare,” House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay has meanwhile instructed the NEC to face the Committee on Elections and Inauguration to “review the clarity on the electoral matters.”
Prior to Tuesday’s warning, Cllr. Korkoyah informed the lawmakers that trucking of unattached or un-interested Liberians from one region to another warrants a six-month jail sentence.
He said that a candidate qualifies to contest a regional seat if he/she has resided in the region for a year.