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Editorial: NEC and the Campaign Process

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What seem to be serious troubling signs have emerged at the National Elections Commission with the launch of official campaign for the upcoming general and presidential elections without the qualification of candidates and or demarcation of electoral districts, among other short comings. As the body charged with the duty to conduct and supervise elections in the country, the NEC appears to have placed the cart before the horse, thereby leaving not only aspirants and political parties in doubts, but eligible voters as well scratching their heads, thinking who are the candidates, particularly those vying for legislative posts and for which districts.

These early missteps may appear to be insignificant for now, but they have the potential to develop into future problems along the way to actual voting day. For instance, due to the lack of education and information from the commission, voters could inadvertently select candidates or inaccurately mark ballot papers, which may automatically disqualify such ballots, and therefore deny a most favored candidate from winning.

We like to remind the James Fromayan-chaired National Elections Commission to be cognizant of the fact that stakeholders and international partners have invested so much resources and time in this process therefore, the NEC should proceed with utmost circumspect to ensure a successful outcome. It is not enough for the commission to be calling on parties, aspirants and electorate to campaign without violence, but where the exercise itself is beclouded with inadequate information and uncertainties, chaos would be knocking at the door.

Already, Chairman Fromayan has begun to shift blame for the inadequacies, pointing out that current hitches in the calendar of events leading to the start of campaign are due to protracted delay in the passage of the electoral threshold bill by the National Legislature. Granted. But the NEC boss should be reminded that what is not properly done always creates room for confusion, which we all should try to avoid by doing the right thing. We think by Fromayan shifting blame at this early stage, it creates room for nervousness. Many persons have begun to be apprehensive whether or not, the NEC really has the technical pedigree and operational maturity to withstand bigger challenges that could spark up on the way to the ballot box and thereafter.

It is important that the NEC conduct its activities in such a manner, particularly putting in place those basic mechanisms required in an electoral process to leave no room for contention and subsequent violence. With 29 political parties registered besides independent aspirants, there are already indications that the playing field will become very crowded which could pose a challenge for our illiterate voters. We are raising these issues without malice against any member of the National Elections Commission, including Chairman Fromayan. As watchdog for society, we are under obligation to bark loudly so that prompt corrective measures are put in place to safe-guard our democratic process and sustain the peace and security of the country.

Any attempt to keep silent on these issues at this early stage could be a disservice both to the commission and the Liberian people in general. It is therefore our hope that the NEC will take heed and act conscientiously to avoid unforeseen embarrassment. We owe it to ourselves and our international partners to conduct free, fair and responsible elections. It is in the interest of not only our current generation, but generations to come that we execute our respective duties with the highest maturity to leave behind footprints worth emulating. Elections provide one of the greatest opportunities for the citizens of any nation to exercise their political franchise by campaigning for the party and candidate of their choice and going to the ballot box to cast their votes, but when the process seems to be faulty and therefore distrusted, there is reason for concern.

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