A media advocacy group, Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding or CEMESP engages editors and solicits their support on the need for reforms in Liberia’s electoral system.CEMESP hosted scores of media editors Friday, 21 June at the Y.M.C.A in Monrovia and invited the consortium, Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) to unveil its elections reform project.
A member of the ECC Steering Committee Harold Aidoo says the project has four objectives – to improve Liberia’s electoral framework; refine and publicize National Elections Commission’s reform; change the election date; design and execute advocacy and produce briefing materials that would serve as lessons learnt from the field.
He says the consortium will also engage the Legislature to pass valuable amendment that will come up as well as political parties and the National Elections Commission itself.
He notes that the last time the election law was reformed was in 2014.
“Our role as civil society is not to take the role of NEC, but the partner in achieving reform”, he explains.
Earlier, CEMESP executive director, Malcolm W. Joseph, notes that the current engagement is meant to give a clear picture of the elections reform process, which is aimed at ensuring elections credibility in Liberia.
NEC communication director Prince Dunbar notes that electoral reform is challenging because it is very expensive, but adds that the Commission is always glad to reform.
He welcomes the initiative by the ECC and other civil society groups saying, with a total staff of about 350, the NEC can’t be everywhere in the country at the same time.
Dunbar continues that the NEC is undewr constitutional mandate to ensure electoral reform is carried out, but collaborating with the ECC and the media is very important.
The first round of the 2017 presidential election was taken to the Supreme Court following contention by one of contestants, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumksine, who claimed the process was unfair, leading to most of his supporters not casting their ballots.
But High Court says the charges were not substantive enough to overturn the result in the first round, which saw no clear winner among almost two dozen candidates thus, setting a runoff between the former ruling Unity Party and the now ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.
Media trainer and monitor, Ms. Maureen Sieh moderating discussion on why the media should report on or advocate for electoral reform, says the engagement with editors is important because they are gatekeepers who supervise work of reporters.
She stresses the need to establish an independent electoral tribunal that would hear disputes from elections, rather than the NEC that has always been a player and a referee.
Maureen also calls for greater participation of women in Liberia’s governing system, noting that the current Senate has only a female senator. “Women make up 49 percent of the population”, she reminds. Story by Jonathan Browne