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Re-emphasizing urgency for NEC to flex its muscles against campaign violence

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Campaign activities for the December 16, 2014 Special Senatorial Elections are ongoing in the 15-counties of Liberia. Out of the One-Hundred and Thirty Nine candidates already certificated and qualified by the National Elections Commission or NEC, only 15 will be elected. Also among the One-Hundred and Thirty-Nine candidates in the senatorial race are twelve Senators, who have already served for nine years. As these campaign activities continue throughout the country, the candidates must understand that elections are about issues and civility in the marketing of ideas for the socio-economic well-being of those for whom they want to serve.

In view of the foregoing, we urge the candidates and their supporters to use the entire campaign period not to delve into matters that are not substantive to the well-being of citizens in their respective counties, but to sell those ideas and plans for socio-economic growth and development. Marketing these ideas and plans to citizens (and voters) must be characterized by what achievements these candidates have made in the counties prior to their decisions to contest, as well as their human relations with the very people from whom votes are being sought, among others.

The incumbent Senators must also tell the people from whom they are seeking re-election tangible and impact-making achievements and other undertakings of theirs for the past nine years they served in the current Liberian Senate. In so doing, they and other candidates are under obligation (and do have the responsibility) to ensure total peace and security while campaigning in the counties of Liberia.

This is against the backdrop of the creeping violence we foresee in some counties considered “hot spots” wherein young people who are supporters of opposing candidates appear with derogatory inscriptions and use invectives at political rallies of other candidates. This is not only unfair to well-meaning citizens and voters, but very provocative and tantamount to violent reactions.

This is why the National Elections Commission and civil society organizations monitoring the process must be very unbending and steadfast in exposing candidates and their supporters engaged in such violent politics in consonance with the election laws of Liberia without fear or favor. The Jerpme Kokoyah-led NEC must be very cognizant of the fact that this 2014 Special Senatorial Electoral process is a ‘litmus test’, and that anything contrary to ensuring a violence-free and transparent electoral exercise would only prove otherwise for him and others at the Commission.

In view of the foregoing, the National Elections Commission must now begin (if and only if it is yet to start) a vigorous anti-violence public awareness exercise, aggressively utilizing the radio network and community-based approach. Its inability to flex its legal authority and muscles will only render it responsible for whatever violence that may erupt as a result of provocations in any manner and form.

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