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-Cummings urges government

The leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress Alexander B. Cummings urges the Weah administration to begin early financial support to the National Elections Commission to begin the 2023 elections on time. “Conducting elections on time”, he says, “is the most basic test of any nation’s democracy. Our country cannot be failing this test and hope to be democratic. For our country, holding free, fair and credible elections, on time, is amongst the best ways to continue to keep our peace, and remain democratic.”

He recalls that Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County recently spoke about the need for the government to begin planning to give the NEC the money they will need to conduct the 2023 Elections on time, saying “I agree with the Senator, and thank him for reminding the government about this important responsibility.”

He emphasizes that it is really important for the country to not only hold the 2023 Elections within the constitutional timeframe, but that elections are held in a way that makes the process, and the results, credible.

“No responsible government needs to be reminded about its duty, especially to provide money to the election commission. This includes the money they need for by-elections. Every other day by-elections are delayed, a district or a county is denied proper representation in the government”, the ANC leader points out.

He notes that elections provide a chance for the people to speak, and choose, and that serious democratic governments do not delay elections, as they do not need to be reminded to plan to support elections. “It is such an important duty for governments that every responsible government makes planning for, and support to elections, a major priority.”

Cummings, who contested for the presidency in 2017 on the ANC’s ticket and lost, says under the George Weah-led government, we have to postpone elections and delay by-elections because the government says it has no money for elections. However, the same government knows how to find money for trips that bring nothing back to the country. When a country does not have money, its leaders will not waste the little that it has on things that yield no benefits to the people.

Even when countries that can afford are keeping their leaders’ home, during this COVID 19 period, our President is travelling and using money we don’t have. At the same time, our country is begging for help to pay civil servants’ pay that are already cut and so low.

He says of course, countries can ask for help; but when a nation starts receiving donations of hand pumps, it should be concerned and ashamed of itself because this is not where the country needs to be.

This is why, I continue to say, we must work as hard as we can, and think as best as we can, to make Mr. George Weah, a one-term President. He and his friends don’t know what they are supposed to be doing, and by not doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are threatening our peace, threatening our democracy, and undermining the way the Constitution say we should be running the country.

At the same time he stresses that apart from making sure the National Elections Commission has the money they will need, there is need to review the way the December 8, 2020 senatorial elections were conducted to avoid repeating the many mistakes made.

“If we carry the same mistakes to 2023, even if we give the NEC all the money they need and we conduct the elections on time, the process and the result, will not be considered by many to be free, fair and credible. This will not be good for our country. It could undermine the peace, security and stability of the country. Elections, if not done well, can lead a country to breakdown and chaos”, he warns.

Mr. Cummings continues that besides talking about money for the NEC, there is need to start putting everything in place to make sure every political party makes the minimum 30% quota for women on their party tickets, adding that if a political party cannot do this, it should not be a party claiming to represent all Liberians.

“Enough with the talking about women participation in politics. It is time to actually do it. The CPP did not only meet the 30% quota for women candidates in the 2020 Bi-elections, but exceeded it by fielding five (5) out of fifteen (15) candidates. In 2023, let us all show that we mean this by actually doing it.”

He also points to need to improve security of election materials, especially ID Card machines and ballot papers so that they are not found in private homes and abandoned places, as well as improving the voter registration system to make it harder, if not impossible, for anyone to register twice, and to make sure the voter roll is clean. “To do this, we need to use the biometric system of registration others are using for registration, which ECOWAS recommended for us to use”, he adds.

Mr. Cummings whose Alternative National Congress is a constituent member of four Collaborating Political Parties or CPP, also observes that after elections, elected officials are moving out of and residing in places way outside their districts and counties they represent, and as a result, they care very little about the people they are supposed to be representing, all because he says, they were elected by outsiders and not the people who actually live in those districts and counties.

Lastly, he calls for changes in how the country manages protests from elections so that they do not delay runoffs, if there is need to have one, or the certification and seating of declared winners. “As we have seen, these delays can undermine the work of the government too.

The real problem is not the number of protests. It is the delays in hearing and judging protests that are the real problems. What we actually need to do is fix the NEC law to make sure protests are heard quickly and without letting the process be unfair to any of the parties.

He suggests that one way in solving electoral protests is to fix the NEC Law so that the NEC can appoint a team of three regional electoral magistrates for each region of the country, and these appointments are to take effect on the day after elections and run for three months, after which, the work of the regional magistrates shall end.

According to him, the way the current system works leaves room for the delays and the decisions to be seen as unfair saying it has the same people against whom some of the protests are actually being brought to hear and decide it. “This is like having the same referee to hear and decide protests from the game he refereed. Whatever he decides, will not be considered fair.”

He reminds the election in 2023 will be for President, half of the Senate, and the House of Representatives, so is too important for the country not to get it right. Story by Jonathan Browne

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