Political Parties, Partners Commit to Holding Peaceful Elections

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Opposition political parties in collaboration with the ruling Unity Party and stakeholders on Monday, October 10, pledged their respective commitments to the holding of a peaceful 2017 presidential and legislative elections. The multi-stakeholders dialogue on the election management process in Monrovia was organized by the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE) in collaboration with its partners.

Held at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship Church in Sinkor, the theme of the discussion was, “October 10, One Year to Elections: How Prepared Are We?”

National Patriotic Party (NPP) Secretary-General Andrew Peters, who spoke on behalf of the representatives from the political parties at yesterday’s multi-stakeholders’ dialogue, assured that the political parties are prepared to hold violence-free elections in 2017.

“We have agreed to remain mature and responsible in dealing with each other as members of the opposition block, with the ruling party and our partners who are always ensuring that we remain at peace with ourselves to conduct peaceful elections,’’ Peters said.

He, however, said that while it is true that they are prepared to stand for peace, authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) should institute corrective measures to ward off violence.

“Lapses such as poor or lack of enforcement of national code of conduct which frowns on cabinet ministers playing active roles in politics is now holding us back,” Peters noted. “Should we keep overlooking them?”

He meanwhile charged representatives of political parties, including those from the UP, to obey the policies and regulations formulated by the NEC to ensure a free, fair, transparent and level political playing field for all.

He called on all political parties to recognize the independence of the NEC and admonished the judicial branch, specifically the Supreme Court, to dispense justice without fear or favor when election disputes are brought for litigation.

Yesterday’s gathering, according to NAYMOTE Executive Director Eddie Jarwolo, was to assess developments leading to the elections in 2017 and charge everyone with the responsibility to contribute positively towards the success of the elections process.

“The overall goal of the dialogue is to assess the level of preparedness of electoral stakeholders, identify critical challenges, gaps and progress as well as safeguard inclusiveness in the electoral management cycle for a peaceful democratic transition,” Mr. Jarwolo said.

“As Liberia approaches a historic moment on its journey towards advancing and developing its fledgling democracy, the 2017 elections will usher in the first post-war transfer of political power, when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf turns over the country’s leadership to a new democratically elected president,” said Mr. Jarwolo.

October 10, 2016, marks exactly one year to the very crucial presidential and representative elections, which will contribute towards consolidating the peace and democratic gains the country has made since the signing of the peace accord in Accra, Ghana, in 2003.

The dialogue featured two discussions and addressed various issues on the preparedness of the electoral management body and electoral stakeholders to support the smooth conduct of the 2017 elections and a peaceful transition of political power. It was moderated by Joey Kennedy, NEC Communications Director.

In the wake of the revised electoral law; the National Code of Conduct; increased number of political parties; the creation of the new voter’s registry; the proposed Affirmative Action Bill (21 additional seats); and issues regarding the threshold for voter registration, as well as the departure of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Jarwolo said: “It is important to begin engaging key electoral stakeholders and election management bodies on their preparedness as we move closer to the upcoming elections to adequately address the existing challenges and shortcomings, and find a way forward to ensure a smooth democratic transition.”

Concerning the preparedness of the National Elections Commission, the Executive Director of NEC, Lamin Lighe, said NEC is prepared because it is operating according to its timeline, and has therefore started creating more awareness for voters.

The dialogue also heard contributions from other panelists and experts on the holding of violence-free elections in the country.

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