The Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission has warned its magistrates that the electoral body will no longer cover or take responsibility for any wrongdoing committed by election magistrates.
According to the electoral body chairperson, NEC will no longer shield election magistrates for wrongs rather, each magistrate will be responsible to clear his or her own name in any case of fraudulent acts.
“NEC Magistrates are powerful groups of people during elections and must take full responsibility for their actions. Therefore, the BOC takes seriously the ongoing investigation involving three of the 19 Elections Magistrates,” said NEC Chairperson Lansanah at the occasion marking a two-day Adjudication Dispute Workshop held at the Commission’s headquarters in Sinkor.
NEC’s warning, which was contained in a message delivered yesterday by its chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah, came as the electoral body faces mounting pressure to conduct free and fair midterm Senatorial Elections, Constitutional Referendum, and by-elections scheduled to hold on 8th December 2020. Of late, public confidence in the electorate body has been low as election magistrates have been accused of doing nothing to stop voter trucking, which some magistrates were investigated for, but the upcoming of the investigation remains unknown.
Elections Magistrates from Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, and Bomi counties are said to be undergoing investigation on allegations of electoral irregularities mainly during the 2020 Voter Roll Update Exercise. And just a month ago, nine senatorial candidates’ in Grand Gedeh County sent a communication to NEC to express their vote of no confidence in the county’s senior election magistrate.
The nine candidates, who are all contesting for the County’s senatorial seat in the upcoming December 8 midterm election, alleged that the county’s senior election magistrate, Arthur Duogee, is a rogue element who, since 2011, has supervised elections that have been characterized by fraud and contentions.
In support of the electoral body chairperson’s position, NEC Commissioner Boakai A. Dukuly, who has Oversight Responsibility for Political Affairs said the attitudes of Magistrates during this election period will critically be put under the spotlight by all Liberians, mainly the Political Parties, and as such, they should act in line with election ethics.
Dukuly warned Magistrates to be careful in their deeds and actions, and avoid attending what he described as “other people’s meeting or not to act as partisans” but to maintain the highest level of confidence reposed in them over the years by the Board of Commission (BOC) to conduct free, fair and transparent elections.
The head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Electoral Support Project to Liberia, Lenka Homolkova said the UNDP with funds from the German Government was glad to collaborate with the NEC’s Dispute Hearing Office to help train Elections Magistrates to properly handle elections related cases during and after the conduct of elections.
Homolkova said the Magistrates will receive training manual in the areas of an impartial and informed arbiter, established burdens of proof and standards of evidence, availability of meaningful and effective remedies and a system that judicially expedites decisions.