The National Elections Commission or NEC says it could not conduct two senatorial by-elections that were scheduled for Tuesday, 8 May due to lack of adequate fund.
The Commission had earlier submitted US$3.9 million budget to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for the by-elections that should have been conducted in Montserrado and Bong Counties, respectively to replace President George Manneh Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, who both left the Liberian Senate after they won the Presidency in 2017.
But Finance Minister Samuel Tweah sliced the figure to US$2.7 Million, citing financial constraints and government’s Pro-Poor priorities. Tweah in effect, said bluntly that elections were not a priority for now.
Despite the budgetary reduction, the government has been unable to provide the US$2.7 Million promised the NEC, disbursing only US$500,000 in early April.
Addressing a news conference in Monrovia Tuesday, NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya, says as a result of failure to holding the by-elections, the Commission lacks constitutional power to set new date for the elections, noting that instead; the board of commissioners will revert to the Liberian Legislature for a resolution that would announce a new date for the crucial by-elections.
Chairman Korkoya explains that the commission cannot approach the Liberian Legislature until funding is made available, which government is yet to make clear.
He continues that there is no confirmed timetable as when the balance US$2 Million would be provided, thereby, creating uncertainty on the holding of the elections.
According to the NEC boss, vendors are not willing to do pre-finance business with the Commission as had been the case with previous elections.
He details out of the US$500,000 disbursed to the Commission, US$100,000 was deposited in extra account, while the balance money has been sent for elections’ materials.
According to him, the Commission has also received little over US$500,000 from the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme towards the pending by-elections.
Meanwhile, 12 persons have applied to contest for the two senatorial seats, including five nominees for Bong County and seven for Montserrado County, respectively. By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne