By Naneka A. Hoffman
Several Liberians have strongly expressed disappointment and opposition against a bill currently before the Liberian Senate from the Executive, seeking to amend the Elections Law in order to replace or retire election magistrates across the country.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the NEW DAWN, a group of Liberians say it’s so unfortunate that President George Weah would send such a bill to the Legislature, seeking to forcibly replace all election magistrates in the field, as the country heads for elections in 2023 in which Mr. Weah seeks re-election.
They believe the bill is anti-democracy, unconstitutional and intended to cause chaos, noting that it is purely aimed at enabling President Weah to rig the pending elections and continue inflicting wounds on ordinary citizens.
Expressing his discontent, Mr. Kabineh Fofana notes the current 54th Legislature, headed by members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change wants President Weah to get re-elected at all costs in 2023 and that is why they are even having conversations on such an anti-democratic bill.
He says the Legislature and the President want magistrates that they will control so that if President Weah wins the 2023 elections, they can maintain their jobs.
“The bill is not necessary, and it is not right because some of these people were trained with taxpayers’ money and they have grown over the past years to manage elections, and it’s time for them to implement what they have learned; you want to change them and bring those you can control and influence; it’s unacceptable.” Another Liberian, Varlee Kromah, states.
He argues that some of the current magistrates have so many years of experience therefore, as the Liberians go to crucial elections next year, their knowledge and expertise are needed.
Mr. Kromah wondered if all those magistrates are replaced, who will Liberians trust to manage the electoral process.
For his part, Brown Weah similarly concurs that this is a wrong decision the Legislature is embarking on because it’s a known fact that elections are just 14 months away and retiring all magistrates from the various counties doesn’t look good.
“The recent By-election that took place in Lofa County, there was something that happened in the political arena that the government took keynote of it from the magistrates. And so, the government feels that those magistrates in the fifty counties it did not appoint them; rather they were appointed by the former ruling Unity Party.” Mustapha Harmon notes.
He explains that for the government to look at those magistrates to stay in their positions for the 2023 elections, it fears defeat therefore, it is doing everything possible to regain power.
But Alvin Varkpanah disagrees, terming the current move on Capitol Hill as a fine decision. He argues that the government is withdrawing all magistrates from their positions so that every one of them can reply.
He adds that the Legislature is aware that magistrates have been in the jobs for so many years and most of them are not qualified, so it is time the government have them replaced with qualified persons.
On Tuesday, 9 August 2022, President George Manneh Weah requested lawmakers to return from their break to discuss critical national issues for the period of 30 days which began 15 August 2022 and will end Tuesday, 13 September 2022.
Among others, the issues included a request for legislators to pass the amendment of the New Elections Law which calls for the immediate dismissal and retirement of all election magistrates across the country.
This is coming just barely 14 months to Presidential and Legislative Elections next year in which President George Weah is seeking a second term. Editing by Jonathan Browne