Following extensive consultations with stakeholders across the country, the national Elections Commission or NEC has submitted to the Liberian Legislature, the new date for the conduct of the Midterm Senatorial elections in Liberia for approval. In a Presidential Proclamation a few weeks ago, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf suspended the October 14, 2014 Senatorial elections and mandated the Commission to hold consultations with electoral stakeholders, including political parties and national and international health authorities on the possibility of holding the elections in the wake of the national Ebola Crisis.
A joint Resolution by the House of Representatives and Liberian Senate a few weeks ago, also mandating the National Elections Commission to conduct the elections before December 20, 2014, preceded the recent proposal for the December 16, 2014 date. The new proposal, agreed upon by political parties, civil society, national and international health authorities, as well as youth and students groups, among others, in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Gbarnga, Bong County and Tubmanburg, Bomi County recently, is expected to go through Legislative formalities and approval this week, following which the National Elections Commission would make an official declaration on the commencement of the process, including campaigning.
Indications are that the proposed December 16 will be approved by the Legislature considering their decision, in a joint resolution, that elections must be conducted before December 20 to avoid a Constitutional Crisis. Even though the new electoral date is yet to be approval by Capitol Hill, all eyes are now set on December 16 amid the current Ebola crisis.
But one of the major anticipated challenges will indeed be voter’s apathy because of the fear among voters of the deadly Ebola disease; there may be a very poor turn-out during the one-day event, even in counties where there may be low risk of the virus. This is why, as the NEC awaits approval from the Liberian Legislature, the Commission must ensure a vigorous civic and voter’s education, adequately utilizing the print and electronic media. Also of high priority in this exercise must be the Community Radio Network, especially in Rural Liberia, with emphasis on the 16 tribes and simple Liberian English so that all voters are one way or the other motivated to turn-out to vote on December 16.
As we emphasize stronger cooperation between the NEC and Liberia Media, the issue of community-based approach to civic and voter’s education must be prioritized through civil society organizations to buttress the role of the media. Though the issue of fear of Ebola may persist, vigorous civic and voter’s education characterized the various Ebola preventive measures could further help to diminish the fear factor among the population.
And we are of the strongest conviction that if the National Elections Commission and partners subscribe to the foregoing suggestions, no doubt, turn-out on voting day across the country would very encouraging, even if not close to a hundred-percent, despite the Ebola Crisis in which we still finds ourselves as a nation.