Editorial:- 2023 electoral glitches: Why NEC is not the only culprit here
Fears that Liberia is on the brink of a constitutional crisis, as the country prepares for its October 10 polls, are unimaginable. This is due in part to several factors and NEC is not the only culprit here.
Elections, as we all know, are processes conducted within a time frame, a delay in executing one event would subsequently affect the proceeding one.
Therefore, the current looming constitutional crisis cannot be attributed to NEC Commissioners’ inability to perform the task ahead as required by law. The Legislative and the Executive Branches of government are equally liable.
According to Article 80 (c) of the Liberian Constitution, “every Liberian citizen shall have the right to be registered in a constituency, and to vote in public elections only in the constituency where registered…”. According to (d) of the same Article, a constituency “shall have an approximately equal population of 20,000, or such number of citizens as the Legislature shall prescribe in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred.” At (e), the Constitution provides that “immediately following a national census and before the next elections, the Elections Commission shall reapportion the constituencies in accordance with the new population figures so that every constituency shall have as close to the same population as possible; provided, however, that a constituency must be solely within a county.”
The delayed conduct of the National Housing and Population Census in 2018, taking place 4-years later, now referred to as the 2022 National Housing and Population Census was the beginning of the brink of the Constitutional crisis created by the Executive Branch of Government aided and abetted by the Legislative Branch, which has since 2018 used “Resolutions” to circumvent constitutional requirements.
Had the Legislative Branch acted to uphold the Constitution by compelling the Executive to conduct the National Housing and Population Census as mandated by the Constitution and not a “Resolution” to circumvent such an important requirement, NEC would have worked in line with Article 80 (e); because one would expect that a responsible Legislature would have conducted its businesses responsibly.
But as if that has not been enough, funding for the election itself has also been lacking. Few days ago, NEC Chair informed Senators here that as of the 9th of March, 11 days to begin the Voters Registration process, the Commission was yet to receive an initial amount of US$4 million from the Ministry of Finance to begin the 2023 elections process.
What this meant was that whatever preparation that should have been made days earlier, had to be pushed ahead due to lack of funding.
This includes deployment of staff, equipment and logistics, payment for rented facilities, etc. These equipment would have been deplored ahead of time and tested days before the first citizen could show up to register. Venues negotiated for would have also been paid for to avoid the current embarrassment, where NEC staffs are being kicked off premises, and would not have reverted to changing registration centers moving some to nearby constituencies.
Again, creating another confusion ahead of voting day, when a person residing in say, District 3, but had registered in District 8, will be compelled to choose a Representative Candidate that has no responsibility toward his or her District. This is chaotic situation, that must be corrected not just by NEC but by the Legislature and the Executive as well.
Each of the two branches of government herein mentioned has played its respective role in creating this chaotic situation. They must now act responsibly to get the country out of this impending chaos – hopefully not by another “resolution.”