Two influential civil society organizations have expressed serious concerns about the National Elections Commission’s handling of crucial procedures leading up to the holding of the presidential and legislative elections. The delay in implementing crucial election-related procedures is a conflict early warning sign, according to the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and the Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON).
At a joint press conference in Monrovia, Counselor Oscar Bloh, Chairman of the ECC, expressed dissatisfaction with the way the NEC handled the tendering for the biometric voter registration kits for the elections as well as the lack of clarity and information. ECC and LEON further stated that they were extremely concerned about the ambiguities and lack of public access to information surrounding the tendering for the biometric voter registration kits, which could have an impact on the timely holding of the presidential and legislative elections in 2023.
“Credibility of voter registration is a precondition for conducting credible elections, and as such, great attention must be taken in conducting this exercise.”
He contends that maintaining the peace and security of the state depends on the credibility of elections and that this process necessitates adequate time, transparency, inclusiveness, and timely resource allocation from the national government to carry out significant tasks prior to election day. The delays in conducting the national census and voter registration carry the following dangers, according to ECC and LEON. They listed the dangers, including the possibility that eligible voters won’t be registered to vote in 2023 and the NEC’s failure to redistribute constituencies in accordance with the updated population estimates and the Liberian Constitution.
“It is alarming that these prerequisite processes, which ought to have been finished by now, have not yet started less than a year before the elections. The delimitation in Liberia is based on statistics from the census and voter registration. With the delay and uncertainty, the nation could experience a crisis that would cause improper allocation and distort the principle of equal representation. When these things come together, the public may have less faith in the electoral system.”
The back-and-forth negotiations between the NEC and the PPCC, in the opinion of ECC and LEON, are a glaring example of the lack of coordination required for the timely acquisition of election materials. The two CSOs asserted that they thought that registering voters and conducting a census in the same year could compromise the integrity of the election’s procedure and results. While this is going on, the ECC and LEON have advanced a three-count recommendation, among other things, urging the Liberian government, via the NEC and the PPCC, to hold an internal discussion to reach a compromise on the purchase of the biometric voter registration kit without necessarily breaking the PPCC law and guarantee the credibility and integrity of the process.
Additionally, ECC and LEON suggested that the NEC choose a vendor in a transparent and accountable way with prompt disclosure of information to the public. The two organizations agreed that political parties and CSOs should routinely meet with foreign partners helping to oversee the 2023 presidential and legislative elections to develop scenarios that could jeopardize the electoral process and discuss how to mitigate them. Because ECC and LEON are the two largest domestic election monitoring groups in Liberia, comprising numerous network organizations, their combined press release is noteworthy as many Liberians applauded them.
To guarantee genuine and honest electoral management in Liberia, these two CSOs are purposefully collaborating. The ECC collaborates with Democracy International with funding from the US Agency for International Development, and LEON is supported by SIDA.
Reported by: Augustine Octavius
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