February 22, 2024

USAID Mission Director; 2023 Elections Critical Test for Liberia’s Democracy

Monrovia, Liberia – The upcoming presidential and legislative elections on October 10 will be the first since the end of the Liberian civil war in which Liberia will independently oversee the entire election cycle from voter registration to actual voting and ballot counting. According to USAID Mission Director Jim Wright, this election will be a crucial test for Liberian democracy.

The statement was made by him during a special speech he gave at the Liberia Independent Domestic Elections Observation (LIDEO) Activity’s start on Friday, March 17, at the Boulevard Palace in Monrovia. Program of cooperation between the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Successful elections in October will help Liberia build on its hard -won post-war democracy. It is important therefore that the entire process strictly adheres to the applicable guidelines and rules, which are fairly enforced. This is the best way to engender public confidence in the election results”, Director Wright stressed.”

Election observation is a useful tool for enhancing the standard of elections, so what the ECC will be doing is crucial in his opinion. Additionally, it guarantees adherence to the rules, discourages misconduct, and increases public confidence in the honesty of the electoral process. It can reveal issues that can be resolved even while elections are taking place.

In order for the ECC’s reports and recommendations to have the full trust and support of the Liberian people, he stressed that the US government has no doubt that the ECC will use its extensive experience in election observation to fairly observe the election in October.

“The ECC is very qualified to lead the implementation of our election observation project. Since its founding in 2010, the ECC has worked to promote democratic governance in Liberia and built a strong network among donors and civil society organizations. Among ECC’s is it commitment to ensuring a fair electoral process and making objective, evidence -based judgement about the conduct of elections.”

Our collaboration with the ECC is novel. We have never before worked directly with regional organizations in Liberia to carry out an undertaking of this size and scope. The new localization program at USAID gave rise to this collaboration. Simply put, this project acknowledges the necessity of thoughtfully incorporating local partners’ priceless insights into our work, he continued.

Accordingly, when local partners take the initiative in developing our programs, carrying out projects, and monitoring progress, the development results we create are likely to be more effective, more durable, and more equitable, Mr. Wright said in his subsequent comments.

The Liberia Domestic Elections Observation (LIDEO), he noted, is a Fixed Amount Award from February 28, 2023, to August 28, 2025, and is valued at 1, 466, 745.00 United States Dollars. Earlier, the Chairperson of the ECC, Cllr. Oscar Bloh, expressed his institution’s pleasure to work with USAID on this project.

According to project chairperson Bloh, the overall objective of the project is to increase voter confidence in the electoral processes and results to the degree that is necessary and to reduce electoral tension and violence through public reporting on election observation that is responsive, and evidence based. This objective is consistent with the ECC’s purpose, which is to support credible, accountable, transparent, and long-lasting democratic processes in Liberia.

In pursuit of the above goal, the project has two strategic objectives:

Objective One: To Increase transparency and strengthen public confidence — to the extent warranted — in the 2023 voter roll and election process, including results

Objective Two: To promote strengthening of Liberia’s electoral practices and legal framework.

In the implementation of activities, the project will adopt a three-pronged approach: The first approach is to increase citizens’ confidence in the electoral process and its outcome through the observation of the various components of the electoral cycle and releasing timely information to the public on the findings.

The second approach is stakeholders’ engagements which include establishing and maintaining strategic relationships with diverse stakeholders including NEC, political parties, security sector and the media. These engagements, he pointed out are intended to share information, collective problem-solving and to harness the efforts of all stakeholders to contribute to a free, fair and credible election.

The third approach is electoral reforms advocacy. This will include consultations with stakeholders on reforms that need to take place based on their experience of participating in the 2023 elections as well as the outcomes of the ECC’s observation efforts.

Mr Bloh added that the ECC will deploy 92 Long Term Observers (LTOs) which includes 19 County Coordinators and 73 electorial Districts Supervisors. In addition to the LTOs, the ECC will deploy 1,200 Short Term Observers on election day.

According to him, ECC has outlined the following key activities to achieve the strategic objectives outlined above and they include: establishing ECC Data Center ECC will use the Apollo Database Management System which will allow observers to transmit real-time observation data through SMS using coded texts which will be collated and analyzed to produce updates/ reports.

Observation of the Biometric Voter Registration Exercise and the Exhibition including claims and objections; observation of the primaries of political parties; observation of the campaign to ensure that political parties and independent candidates are in compliance with the laws and regulations; observation of the election day; observation of the adjudication of electoral petitions; compilation of comprehensive technical observation report; and Electoral Reforms Advocacy

In concluding, he said the ECC values the partnership with USAID and extends heartfelt appreciation to the American People for their continuous support to civil society organizations such as the ECC to enable them to provide an independent view and assessment on the credibility of the conduct of elections in Liberia.

“This helps to sustain and consolidate Liberia’s democratic gains and to improve the quality of our democracy. We will work in close collaboration with the international observation groups such as the Electoral Institute of South Africa (EISA) and national observation group such as the Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON).

“We are proud of the trust repose in us as a partner and we can assure USAID and the taxpayers of America that the resources provided to the ECC will be managed and used in an effective, efficient, Professional and transparent manner.”

Reported by; Stephen G. Fellajuah

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