By Lewis S Teh
Scores of women NGOs here have described the new election law currently lingering at the legislature as something that lacks specificity and enforceability. The law calls for women’s political participation and representation.
“We are few months away from a crucial election and we have the new election law that the Elections Commission supposed to use to hold political parties accountable on their candidate’s representation
As we speak, that law is still lingering; it was sent to the President for signature, and section of that law was vetoed and sent back to the legislature. Up to now, we haven’t heard any concrete [thing] regarding the status of the law. This is our paramount concern” says Ms. Christiana T. Wayon, Medical Liberia Advocacy Officer.
Addressing a news conference Tuesday, June 6, at Medical Liberia office in Old Road community, the women’s group narrates that Section 4.5 of the new election law is of interest to women of Liberia, noting that it’s against this backdrop that they thought to hold a media engagement to draw the President and the legislature’s attention ahead of the October presidential poll.
The women NGOs include Medical Liberia, POWER Liberia, WONGOSOL, African Women Leaders, Her Voice Sister Aid Liberia, Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH) Paramount Young Women, Women in Solidarity and Women in Peace Building Network (WIONET) among others.
Reading a four-page press statement, the heads of the women’s group, Medical Liberia Advocacy Officer Ms. Christiana T. Wayon and the program manager at Women NGOs Secretariat, Ms. Willet L. Salue, said the new election law particularly Section 4.5 lacks specificity and enforceability to advance women’s participation and representation in elected positions.
“The ambiguous language used in Section 4.5 on the nomination of candidates which merely states the need to “endeavor to ensure “, proves insufficient”, they say.
According to them, in response to the gap, the national legislature voted in favor of amending Section 4.5 of the election law, alongside amendments of other sections.
They note that the proposed amendment introduced provisions for fines and sanctions on political parties or coalitions that fail to meet the minimum 30% gender representation requirements.
The women leaders add that for the upcoming October polls, political parties that do not comply with the requirements must submit a new candidate list to the National Elections Commission or face a fine of US$10,000, noting that failure to pay the fine will result in rejecting a party’s candidate list.
The Women NGOs recommend that the national legislature should prioritize approval of portions of the bill that relate to Section 4.5 of the election law that was approved by President Weah and to finalize the legislative process.
The group also calls on President Weah to publicly declare his approval of the portion of the bill related to Section 4.5 of the election law and ensure that it is printed into handbill in a timely fashion.
“We strongly believe that implementing these recommendations will contribute to a more inclusive and representative political landscape in Liberia, empowering women and promoting democratic values.”
Ms. Willet L. Salue, program manager for WONGOSOL, points out that passing the gender quota is a necessary step to addressing the historical underrepresentation of women in politics and promote equal participation.
“Since 2010, every attempt at legislating gender equity measures has failed apart from the 2014 amendment which produced a weak legal provision, representing a political compromise which paid lip service to gender equality and had no effect on the number of women on candidate listing”, Ms Salue concludes. Editing by Jonathan Browne