The Chairman of the National Elections Commission of Liberia (NEC) has assured political parties, Civil Society Organizations, and special Focused Groups of the Commission’s commitment to consolidate Liberia’s democracy.
Whilst declaring the official opening of the NEC Electoral Law Reform Consultation in Grand Bassa County, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya said “I want to assured you of the Commission’s continued commitment to working with Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, and special Focused Groups in the consolidation and nurturing of Liberia’s nascent democracy through the consistent and effective delivery of free, fair, and credible elections at all times”.
The Buchanan Law Reform Consultations is a high-level meeting of Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, and Focused Groups, including the media, religious groups and youth and woman groups among others. It is bordering on the General Administration of NEC, Voter Registration, Electoral Justice, and Constitutional Issues for Long Term.
Following the 2017 presidential and Representative elections, both local and international observer groups, totaling 102, recommended 144 legal electoral reforms. Of this amount, 107 recommendations came from Liberia observer groups. These recommendations were addressed to the NEC and the Executive and Legislature branches of the government of Liberia. They were also made to the Liberian National Police (LNP) and stakeholders, including political parties and civil society organizations.
Considering the importance of the recommendations and pursuant to 2.9 (c) of the New Elections Law, the Board of Commissioners of the NEC constituted a Technical Working Group (TWG), headed by the deputy Executive Director for Programs of NEC, Nathan Garbie. The mandate is to review the recommendations particularly directed at NEC to identify a “Reform Agenda” to undertake in the period 2019 – 2023.
The TWG considered 84 recommendations of the 144, accepted 59, declined 10 and decided to refer 15 to other institutions for their considerations. Of the 59, 32 can be actioned through adoption of regulation (without prior change in legislation) adoption of policy or though strengthening implementation strategy.
The remaining 27 of the 59 requires changes to the Legislation (statute) and Constitution of Liberia.
Cllr. Korkoya said the NEC is mandated by the constitution of Liberia under section 2.9 of the New Elections Laws of 1986 to “propose to the National Legislature for enactment, amendment to, and appeal of any provision of the Election Laws”. The NEC Chairman said the Commission does this “through the three-segment electoral cycle: pre-election period, election period, and post-election period (the current period).
Chairman Korkoya said the Commission is “happy that the Chairpersons and members of the committees on elections in both the Liberian Senate the House of Representatives have been closely following this process”. Senator Milton Teahjay and Representative Alex Grant have been a part of the NEC nationwide consultations since its inception in June 2019.
The NEC Chair also praised the UNDP, USAID, EU, Irish Aid, and Canada for funding the consultation. He thanked ECOWAS and AU for their support to Commission.
The new UNDP deputy Resident Representative for programs thanked the Commission for living up to the recommendations from national and international observer groups for electoral reform following the 2017 elections.
Ms. Violet Baffour said, “These consultations are vital in further strengthening public confidence and engagement in Liberia’s electoral process”. However, she said she would want “more attention and action in ensuring the participation of women, youth and persons with disabilities”. She said the reform, which include the tenure of the elected officials, change of Election Day, and amendments to the Electoral Dispute Resolution, “must be followed by a strong action”.
For her part, the deputy Mission Director of USAID said the “historic 2017 elections in many ways signaled the growing maturation of Liberia’s young democracy. However, they also revealed some shortcomings in the electoral process that could threaten the credibility of future elections if not immediately addressed”.
Ms. Rebekah Eubanks said changing of the election date from the rain to the dry and changing of laws to include more female candidates “seem to be widespread agreements”. Ms. Eubanks said, “accordingly, we will see these as items on the ballot for Constitutional Amendment”.
The USAID deputy Director said, “Liberia has shown that free, fair, and competitive lections provide a reliable path from conflict to guinue peace and reconciliation “. Ms. Eubanks said “for peace to be sustained and lasting, the people must have unwavering faith in the electoral system-that it will truly allow their voices to be heard no matter their gender, ethnicity, economic status or political affiliation”.
The Buchanan high-level Electoral Law Reform Consultation will run from today October 22-24, 2019. It follows series of consultations held across the Country that incuded local government officials, traditional leaders, and woman and youth groups. The meetings were held in Tubmanburg, Bomi County involving Bomi, Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Upper Montserrado. The second was held in Buchnan, Grand Bassa County involving citizens of host Bassa, Margibi, and Rivercess. Then was Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Sinoe, and Grand Kru Counties in Zwedru City. The last of the consultations was held in Gbarnga involving Bong, Lofa, and Nimba Counties. Upon completion of the Consultations, the NEC will send the draft proposal, after validation, to the Legislature for enactment.