The National Elections Commission (NEC) has just concluded a two-day training of journalists on the Voters Roll Update (VRU) process in Gbarnga, Bong County. From all indications, the NEC is going full steam ahead with what it calls a “Mobile” VRU process. This means that teams of NEC officers will move from point to point across the country to conduct the update.
According to its official calendar, the List of Voter Roll Update Centers should have been published since August 13, 2020. To the best of available information, this has still not been done apparently because of its (NEC) decision to move away from stationary verification to mobile verification. Even then, it has still not made available to the public its movement plan.
If, by NEC’s reckoning, mobile update is the way to go, then it needs to publish its movement plan in order for the public to keep abreast of where the mobile teams will be and at what time and for how long they will be at each mobile registration point. Again, to the best of publicly available information, NEC has still not done this.
But it appears that NEC is engaged in a game of deception because it is a documented fact that the previously attempted Mobile VRU process was an abject failure owing mainly to logistical problems made worse by very bad road conditions that obtains throughout the country during the rainy season. It remains doubtful that any significant results will be achieved given this situation.
Only recently, NEC announced what it called the launch of its Voters Civic Education program. But the public is aware that there is virtually no concerted and coordinated ongoing Civic Voter Education program. Hardly anything is known about the procedures involved in the VRU process, let alone the issues attending the referendum, which is to be conducted concomitantly with the election.
More to that is the unresolved issue of the Voters Roll clean-up, mandated by the Supreme Court since 2017, but which has still not been done. The Daily Observer has consistently warned that the failure to clean-up the VR will have dangerous implications for the successful conduct of the elections, given the experience of the 2017 elections.
The Supreme Court, in an unprecedented display of impotence, helplessly looked on as its mandate to clean-up the VR was flagrantly violated and disrespected with virtual impunity. That development left the public with a deep sense of loss and let down by an institution that is to protect and safeguard the civil rights and liberties of the Liberian people.
Not surprisingly, the elections were characterized by fraud owing mainly to problems associated with a compromised VR. Had it not been for the temperance and restraint shown by opposition leaders, especially Charles Brumskine, who led the challenge at the Supreme Court during a very tense standoff period, who knows where the country would be by now?
There again, the Court left the public with an even deeper sense of loss when it ruled that the fraud committed was not significant to alter the results of the elections, which were conducted on the basis of the same compromised VR. And it is this compromised VR, which has still not been cleaned since the 2017 elections, that appears will be used in the December 8 elections. This is certainly a recipe for trouble.
Further, other activities planned to have taken place in the month of August have still not been carried out and there is no indication of when NEC intends to do so. These include the publication of the Nomination and Regulations Guidelines and the Accreditation of Party Agents, Media and for Election and Referendum. The cutoff period for this exercise, as spelt out in NEC’s calendar, was 30th July 2020.
No new date has been announced for the conduct of these activities and yet, NEC says it is on course, even with its ever-changing timelines. From all indications, the December 8, 2020 elections may prove to be a nightmare given the current trend of things under the leadership of Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lansanah. She appears overwhelmed and bereft of the courage to stand up to those officials who support the underfunding of NEC.
Perhaps even more worrisome is the seeming indifference of political parties as well as civil society to these developments. Their voices, if heard at all, are very and annoyingly feeble. Political parties especially, who are the key stakeholders in the political process, appear to be lacking direction but, no sooner when campaign is declared open, a flood of parties swamp the playing field, adding nothing more than confusion to the mix.
In a very strong sense, this constitutes a betrayal by the country’s political class. They find themselves plagued with a host of problems stemming mainly from their inability to put aside petty differences bordering on self-interest and focus on the collective interests. For the most part, they appeared mired in petty squabbles.
This includes many of those who beat their chests, proclaiming themselves as ‘Progressives’, but yet appear impotent in the face of these challenges. Opportunism and self-interest appear to have gotten hold of a good lot of them and, perhaps, this can explain their virtual paralysis in the face of so much to be done.
For example, one hears of little or no discourse on the nation’s path to national development. Not a single political party has initiated a national discourse on the nation’s current development paradigm and how it affects for good or for bad national aspirations for development and a way out of the debt trap and the vicious cycle of increasing mass poverty.
Further, which political party has raised issues about a return to constituency-based elections, as prescribed by the Constitution, rather than District-based elections? And which political party has raised the issue about the need for the Legislature to revise upwards the threshold figure of 20,000 persons per constituency, given the increase in the country’s population and, as in keeping with the dictate of the Constitution? The answer to both questions is none. This constitutes betrayal, a betrayal of the Liberian people plain and simple.