Immediately following the Supreme Court’s lifting of the stay order on the senatorial election, the National Elections Commission (NEC), after meeting with political parties, senatorial candidates and other stakeholders, pronounced Saturday, December 20 as the new for these elections.
We think it was most considerate of NEC to defer the election by a few more days, from December 16 to the 20th, giving the candidates four days to campaign. It was only fair to the candidates, who we are sure do not blame NEC for the delay. The Commission had absolutely no choice but to honor the “stay order” of the Justice in Chambers of the Supreme Court of Liberia, His Honor Mr. Justice Phillip A.Z. Banks.
In announcing the new date, NEC was also quick to set the guidelines for the campaign period, which begins immediately and ends at six o’clock p.m. on Friday, December 19, 2014.
The next most important thing for NEC to do has been to publish strict guidelines to provide “Ebola Preventive Measures,” to be observed by all candidates and their partisans and supporters. These include hand washing and temperature monitoring at all town hall meetings, political rallies and other campaign activities. These preventive measures, said NEC, “shall be instituted at the point of entry/commencement of such campaign gatherings.
NEC also requires that all political rallies be held outdoor, utilizing indoor facilities when such is the only available option.
The Commission has also “prohibited” the mass transportation of people by candidates, political parties or their supporters for electoral purposes. These include town hall meetings, political rallies, parades, voting or other campaign activities. These are all prohibited.
Should there be polling center quarantined, NEC says all electoral or voting activities in that center shall be suspended until the quarantine is lifted by government.
During voting, voters are to maintain a distance of at least three feet between and among themselves in order to control bodily contact.
The Commission has also put into place measures to be observed by people using their thumbs. Cotton buds and tissue paper will be available for each voter to clean the finger before and after marking the ballot.
But the most important part of these regulations is the prohibition of mass meetings, parades and rallies by candidates or political parties. The problem here is that following the filing by senatorial candidate Robert Sirleaf of a prohibition against his mother, the President’s Executive Order #65, before the Supreme Court, the High Court, according to NEC Chair Jerome Korkoyah, has placed a prohibition against the enforcement of the Order.
This, he told the Daily Observer on Monday evening, “will make it difficult for us to enforce the regulation against mass rallies or parades.”
We hope that the Supreme will come out one way or the other with a ruling on this Executive Order and hopefully save the country from the threat of Ebola transmission from these mass activities.
Otherwise, we can only appeal to the various candidates, political parties and the partisans themselves to exercise a considerable degree of self restraint. Their better judgment would be to abide by NEC’s restriction of 250 people at a time gathering anywhere.
We call upon these candidates and political parties and their partisans to realize three things: first, Ebola is real, can be transmitted or spread through BODILY CONTACT and it KILLS; second, Liberia is almost out of the woods, meaning, we have almost defeated the virus, BUT NOT YET! Every precaution, therefore, is essential and absolutely necessary to keep the transmission receding; third, all of us Liberians MUST remember that the entire international community is on our side and has spent over a billion United States dollars helping us to stop this deadly virus from spreading further in our country.
Here is pure and simple a matter of GRATITUDE. Are we GRATEFUL to our foreign partners for all they have done to help us? YES WE ARE! So let us all demonstrate this gratitude of ours to them by following ALL THE RULES and OBEYING ALL THE MEASURES, INCLUDING MASS GATHERINGS.
Let the candidates and political parties find new and creative ways to reach out to their supporters. In our campaigning and voting, let us also fight the virus and successfully drive it out of Liberia.