The UNDP/Elections Project supports the National Elections Commission (NEC) rollout of series of regional sensitization campaigns and consultations leading to a reform of the current election laws of Liberia.
Donors funding the elections project include the European Union, the Irish Aid, Canada and the Government of Sweden through its Embassy in Monrovia.
On 18 June 2019, NEC commenced the regional awareness campaigns across the Country beginning in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
This was followed by Gbarnga, Bong County on June 20, 2019. Two additional events are also scheduled to take place in Tubmanburg, Bomi County on June 24 and in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County on June 27.
At the event in Gbarnga, Bong County, upper Bong County Senior Magistrate Daniel G. Newland provided an overview of the exercise, indicating that the gathering was a result of recommendations made by local and international bodies after the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
“During our elections in 2017, different groups of organizations came into this country to observe the conduct of the elections and after the elections they made recommendations, it is from these recommendations we are calling our people to acquaint them (citizens) with these recommendations,” Mr. Newland explained.
Mr. Newland admitted that the National Elections Commission (NEC) has not done well in the past in terms of providing information to the citizens relating to recommendations coming from partners ahead of elections.
“We can only call you to meeting when elections are coming but this time around, we want to have your contributions on these recommendations not only for the 2020 senatorial election but for elections to come,” he said. “When these recommendations are put forth before the citizens, they’ll have the time to go back and hold town hall meetings with their people so that in the next consultation, they will already know what they are bringing on the table.”
Mr. Newland disclosed that the gathering discussed several recommendations which include legal reform, for example the adjudication of elections disputes and complaints, the Code of Conduct which requires resignation of civil servants and government appointees 2 to 3 years before elections, civic and voter education which the New Elections Law (NEL) gives the NEC the authority to conduct civic and voter education and the date of elections to be changed, among others.
Held under the theme “Enhancing Citizens’ Participation in the Electoral Reform Process of Liberia,” more than 50 participants from Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties as well as officials from the NEC, CSOs and partner organizations participated in the forum.
Mr. Newland said the regional meetings cover, Grand Gedeh, Bong, Bomi, Grand Bassa, Margibi and River Cess Counties.
Participants lauded the NEC and UNDP for the consultations, emphasizing the need for electoral reforms on the elections date and the adjudication of election disputes.
They suggested that elections-related complaints be handled by a neutral body other than the NEC and that civic and voters' education should not be conducted only during elections.
“On the issue of the National Code of Conduct for public officials to step down from their posts in advance of contesting elections, such should be carefully reviewed to ensure that they are not overly restrictive on the right of persons to contest as candidates,” a middle-aged female participant stressed.
Meanwhile, participants have vowed to take the message to their respective communities and urged the NEC to always provide the necessary education whether elections are on hand or not.
This latest effort which is part of interventions under the 2019 Elections-Project work plan, is gear towards supporting the National Elections Commission address some key recommendations of both national and international elections observers on the 2017 general and presidential elections and by extension, improve elections administration in keeping with international best practices.
The regional events are aimed at promoting citizens’ participation in the electoral reform process, create awareness on prepositions or proposed amendments intended for legislative actions etc.
A broad spectrum of over 350 stakeholders were targeted to form part of these exercises. They include representatives of civil society organizations, youth and women groups, local authorities, traditional leaders, physically challenged individuals, faith based institutions, students, teachers, These activities will lead to the electoral reform consultations to be held in July this year.
It is expected that with the needed civic awareness and a review of the reform action plans, target groups will be more empowered to return to their respective constituents to build consensus on proposed amendments to be presented during the reform consultations.-Press release