The National Elections Commission (NEC) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has concluded the conduct of a string of nationwide public consultations with stakeholders on the 2014 Special Senatorial Election.
The Consultations were held in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Gbarnga, Bong County and Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
The consultation in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, brought together participants from Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado and Gbapolu Counties while the Buchanan Consultation brought together participants from Sinoe, River Cess, Grand Bassa and Margibi Counties.
In Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, stakeholders were drawn from Maryland, River Gee, Grand Kru and Grand Gedeh Counties, whereas, in Gbarnga, Bong County, participants were drawn Nimba, Bong and Lofa Counties.
The participants included traditional leaders, religious organizations, youth and women’s groups, civil society organizations, andthe media as well as representatives from registered political parties, and local county officials.
The Regional Consultations were aimed at deriving a new date for the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election and suggesting flexibilityin the 20th December 2014 time frame to hold the electionas contained in a joint resolution adopted by the National Legislature on October 13, 2014 and a Presidential Proclamation of4 October 2014.
A Presidential Proclamation of 4 October 2014 suspended the14 October 2014 date for the conduct of Special Senatorial Election and mandated the National Election Commission to consult with the relevant stakeholders in order to formulate a new date for the election. The NEC, having held consultations with stakeholders, regional and international partners, announced in early July, 2014 that it could not hold the election on schedule.
The Consultations provided the opportunity for the NEC to begin raising awareness on the Special Senatorial Election and generated interest in the process which had lost momentum due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country.
Experts from the Incident Management System of the Ministry of Health in the fight against the Ebola virus madepresentations on the encouraging trend of containing the virus in the respective counties of Liberia and informed the participants in their decision making process. The NEC used the occasion to begin communicating new measures that have been adopted in the electoral process as a result of the Ebola virus outbreak.
The participants were interested in ensuring that the NEC would have all materials in country in time to hold the election. This was the basis for their selection of the 16 December Date for the Special Senatorial Election.
The participants discussed the need for the NEC to work along with the relevant health institutions that have the authority to determine whether or not counties are declared minimum or high risk infections of the EBOLA Virus diseasein order to put into effect the flexibility of the 16 December 2014 date for election.
The participants also wanted the NEC to prepare guidelines for trucking, campaigning, and to employ other safety measures to avert the spread of EBOLA, especially in counties that are low risk.
At the end of the deliberation, the participants drafted a resolution which 34 of them signed in substantiating their recommendation to hold the election on 16 December 2014 and to apply flexibility of the timeframe of not later than 20 December 2014 as mandated by the authorities.