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NEC’s observation, intervention: timely and commendable, but…

In the wake of the recent announcement of a new Voter’s Roll Update or VRU, the National Elections Commission recently issued a statement, warning political parties and independent candidates with the intention of contesting senatorial seats in the counties during forthcoming Special Senatorial Election on October 14, 2014 against early campaigning, ahead of the announcement of its official campaign period.

The Commission’s warning is in Pursuant to Part IV, Chapter VI, section 24 of the Guidelines relating to the registration of political parties and independent candidates. The warning by the NEC is against the backdrop of the vigorous political campaigns being executed by several aspirants of senatorial seats in the counties, especially incumbent senators, whose positions are expected to be challenged by others.

It is no secret that most incumbent Senators since last year, have been reaching out to their respective constituents in citizens, district headquarters, town and villages across Liberia campaigning for another nine years with rice, scholarships and cash far ahead of the announcement of the official date for the exercise by the Commission. Probably, with persistent complaints and reports against such premature and unauthorized exercise, the National Elections Commission thought to call it to an immediate halt.

Political parties and independent candidates, especially incumbent Senators interested in this year’s Senatorial election have been officially informed by the NEC that except for party membership drive; establishment of national and local party offices; fund raising activities; use of logo/emblems on offices, vehicles and other party properties; as well as holding of party national and local conventions; party meetings; and representational activities, including receiving and responding to petition from constituencies, there must be no campaigning in any manner and form-something the Commission noted was in consonance with Section 2.9 (a) of the New Elections Law.

It reminded those currently campaigning/canvassing for votes in the counties that in keeping with Section 24.3 of the election guidelines, political rallies; political broadcasts, statements and political messages in print and electronic media; use of posters, fliers, buntings, advertisement on billboards, public and private buildings, light-poles and the internet; T-shirts, caps and other promotional items; and individual promotional stickers on vehicles constitute political campaigning, and that political parties and independent candidates failing  to adhere to any of these guidelines shall constitute an election offense punishable under Chapter 10 of the New Elections Law of 1986.

It is commendable that the National Elections Commission is timely intervening in such violations by individuals and political institutions who should know far better; especially for incumbent senators of the current 53 Liberian Legislature, there should be no need to campaign had they just done what should have been done in their respective counties for the past eight years in the Liberian Senate.

Not being cognizant of the fact that the very day of their induction as Senators on January 6, 2006 should have been the commencement of their campaign for their re-election, they became overwhelmed and complacent with huge cash, luxurious vehicles, greed, selfishness, as well as lackadaisical in their relationships with their respective constituents in the counties for eight years, perhaps, heavily relying on their huge cash to win the votes of the people come October 14, 2014.  Unfortunately, Liberians may no longer be the fools they thought they were; as a result, most of the counties of Liberia may be thinking about voting in new senators- a situation that is now sending most of the incumbent senators in total desperation.

While the National Elections Commission must be hailed for its intervention at this time, it is our hope that it already has in place the monitoring mechanisms to expose and drastically punish would-be violators without fear or favor.

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