“Eligible voters who, for one reason or the other, could not register during the last voter’s registration exercise in 2011; and those who have changed locations within the country, please visit the nearest voter roll update so that you could be included on the voter roll in order to participate in the 2014 special senatorial election,” were the words of the Chairman of the National Elections Commission or NEC, Cllr. Jerome G. Kokoya at the launch of the nationwide voter roll update campaign a few weeks ago.
But with all set and ready, little did Chairman Kokoya know that there would have been obstacles ahead of this national endeavor just at the last minutes of the commencement of the exercise across the country on Monday, January 13, 2014, having initially created the impression blaming the Ministry of Finance- even though the ministry, through a Deputy Finance Minister, rejected the claim by the Commission.
The NEC, through its Chairman, regrettably informed the nation that it was suspending the campaign until the conclusion of discussions with the Finance Ministry and Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC as it relates to the availability of requisite funding. The suspension was attributed to the delay in passage of the 2013/2014 budget, which made the Commission unable to put in place, orders on time for materials and kids needed for the VRU exercise.
“Due to the late placement of international procurement, occasioned by late approval of the National Budget, the holiday season coupled with extreme weather conditions in supplier countries leading to the grounding of flights, the delivery of registration kits and other essential voter roll update materials could not be on schedule; in view of these problems, the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission is constrained to announce the postponement of the Voter Roll Update Exercise which was scheduled to be conducted from January 13 to March 5, 2014,” Kokoya justified.
While the factors attributed to the postponement of the exercise by NEC as outlined by its Chairman may be understood, one would also wonder as to why didn’t the Elections Commission put in place an alternative plan not to have the exercise disrupted. Sure enough, the failure of the NEC to ensure an alternative-whether or not the conditions mentioned would have existed, was the greatest weakness responsible for the current delay for the Voter Roll Update, expected to provide uniform and legitimate voter identification cards to all eligible (18 yrs.) citizens of Liberia, as well as capture Liberians who have or will be turning 18 years before the date of the Special Senatorial Election and also those who have lost their voter cards or change location.
Frankly, if the NEC had no alternative plan for the process, then, it’s a bad start for the Jerome Kokoyah Commission- and such self-created predicament may likely continue to the 2017 General and Presidential Elections. Even though we continue to hold the National Elections Commission and Board of Commissioners in the highest esteem, it must also continue to encourage Liberians to continuously have confidence in them by always putting in place mechanisms to over-shadow challenges that may serve as hindrances to their progress and achievements.
Liberians would only hope that Chairman Kokoya and the National Elections Commission will redouble their efforts in ensuring the necessary strategies to avert future embarrassments with which they may be confronted.