By Lewis S. Teh
Integrity Watch Liberia is urging political parties and candidates to conform to the National Elections Commission campaign financing regulations to safeguard the democracy of the country.
“To safeguard Liberia’s democracy, ladies and gentlemen of the media, it is crucial to enforce campaign finance regulations effectively.” This he says requires strong institutions, independent oversight bodies, and a commitment from political leaders to uphold the integrity of the electoral process.
Integrity Watch Liberia executive director Mr. Harold Aidoo, gave the urge Tuesday, September 20, in a news conference held at its data center at One UN House in central Monrovia.
Mr. Aidoo disclosed that when money plays an outsized role in politics, it can distort the will of the electorate, leading to outcomes that do not accurately reflect the preferences of citizens.
According to him such behavior can erode public confidence in the democratic process and weaken the overall legitimacy of whatever government that emerges from the poll.
Mr. Harold revealed that on September 1st, 2023, Integrity Watch Liberia (IWL) deployed 32 monitors across all 15 counties to monitor political parties and candidates’ compliance with the National Elections Commission (NEC) Political Party Campaign Finance Regulations.
He said as of yesterday, September 20th, 2023, precisely at 12:00 Noon, Integrity Watch Liberia received a total of 816 reports from across the country.
Of this number, 179 constitute reports on abuse of state resources, 279 contain issues of contributions and expenditure restrictions, 171 have to do with monitoring expenditures and 187 contain reporting on public disclosure issues, he added.
“On the basis of the initial monitoring data, we would like to flag the non-compliance with campaign finance regulations which has significant implications for Liberia’s democracy. Key issues identified so far include: Our monitoring findings show that campaign finance regulations are not being followed by candidates and parties. “
This noncompliance he notes has significant implications for Liberia’s democracy, adding that the act opens the door for corruption and the influence of money in the political process as candidates and parties could potentially receive illicit funds from organizations seeking to gain undue influence or favors.
Mr. Aidoo said Integrity Watch Liberia believes the act could undermine the integrity of the electoral process and erode public trust in the country’s political system on the basis of unfair competition.
“We have documented unfair level playing field among candidates. Wealthy individuals and parties with significant financial resources are outspending their competitors without due cognizance of the NEC campaign finance regulations.”
He lamented that this is drowning out the voices of less affluent candidates and could potentially lead to lack of diversity and representation particularly women at the legislature.
Campaign finance regulations according to the Integrity Watch Executive Director, are designed to promote transparency and accountability in the political process.
“By requiring candidates and parties to disclose their sources of funding and campaign expenditures; our monitoring has shown a complete lack of transparency and blatant refusal from candidates and parties to disclose information on their expenditures and income sources to our monitors.”
He said when these regulations are not followed and enforced, it increases the risk of illicit activities in the campaign process, as non-compliance with campaign finance regulations has the potential to undermine the fundamental principles of democracy, stressing that fair elections, equal representation, and the voice of the people are paramount. Editing by Jonathan Browne