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Stakeholders Validate GC Annual Governance Report (AGR) on Elections

The Governance Commissions on Thursday March 9, 2017 held a public presentation on its draft Annual Governance Report (AGR) in anticipation for inputs from stakeholders. The draft AGR on Liberia’s Electoral System includes draft recommendations to assure that all players in the 2017 elections undressed and agree to the rules of the process, and their role and responsibilities to the process. The program was held at the James Fromoyan Conference Hall at NEC.

Commissioner Othello Gongar, in his opening remarks noted that the AGR was in keeping with the mandate of the Commission, and that the study’s analysis, recommendations and Conclusion were all done by GC. The AGR also reviewed Liberia’s electoral systems, analyzed data referencing Liberia’s elections including the Liberian Constitution and election laws, and recommendations made are based on findings and interpretations of the Commission, based on information gathered.

For her part, National Election Commission’s Vice Chair Madam Sarah Toe acknowledged receipt of the draft AGR from GC noting that NEC is perusing the document in order to make the necessary inputs. Madam Toe added that the report, as read so far, captures and addresses most of the issues and problems experienced by NEC. She said it was necessary for political parties to read the document and get a better understanding of Liberia’s electoral system. 

The NEC Vice Chair also thanked GC for undertaken what she described as “this herculean task”. The Commission made a power point presentation of its Annual Governance Report. It is anticipated that the Report will help inform and assure an inclusive and participatory process that will assure the holding of free, fair, credible, democratic 2017 national elections in a peaceful environment.

The Report highlights the following recommendations:

  1. That elections be used as an opportunity to strengthen citizenship commitment to Liberia;
  2. That election be used as a platform for debate of national development issues: Election contests must serve as platform for informed and responsible debates among parties and candidates on policy issues and priorities. Political parties and candidates must be pressed to do so;
  3. That Elections be used to intensify and expand civic education using the National Curriculum on Civic Education, delivering civic education modules to schools and for non-formal education purposes to deepen and broaden understanding of the importance of elections as responsibility of citizens; and
  4. That the Monitoring and strengthening of voter education; the Strengthening of voter roll verification; and to Strengthen the capacity and monitoring of campaign spending and financial flows into political parties are all priority issues.

NEC lacks the capacity to singly monitor campaign financing and financial flows into political parties; therefore, NEC must enter cooperation agreements with appropriate entities such as the LACC, FIU, and other integrity organizations, where consistent with the Elections Law, to monitor campaign financing and financial flows into political parties as prescribed in NEC’s mandate.

Other recommendations include using elections to:

  1. Enhance political parties and their agents’ commitment to integrity of the voting (including collation), result announcement and complaint filing processes; that NEC set a requirement of the minimum numbers of party agents to be recruited by each party and provide sound training to them, and require and monitor their full deployment.
  2. Establishing national elections monitoring networks and situation room;:
  3. Recruitment, training and equipping of adequate numbers of election magistrates and hearing officers;
  4. Rationalization of NEC’s operational processes: Strengthening the internal processes such as procurement, logistics and human resources capabilities, particularly at times of scarce resources and urgency are invaluable.
  5. Addressing capacity gaps: Improving Communications, M & E and other staffing capabilities as an ongoing undertaking. Ongoing voter registration is uncovering significant gaps in capacity of those engaged in registering voters.
  6. Supporting NEC’s budget: The GoL must prioritize the funding of NEC’s budget and provide to NEC all the resources needed for the 2017 elections by the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2017-2018.
  7. Elections Security Arrangements: The joint security arrangements established by the Inspector General of Police under the oversight of the Minister of Justice and with the cooperation of NEC need to be supported by the Government and international partners.
  8. Aligning NEC’s process of certification with Supreme Court’s decisions: Early certification of candidates have led to the filing of numerous writs of prohibition and the exacerbation of tension, confusion and negative aspersion on the electoral system. The Supreme Court and NEC would do well to ensure expeditious and properly aligned processes of Supreme Court ruling and NEC’s certification.
  1. Address the 10-year residency requirement stipulated in the Constitution: Twice ruled as inapplicable, there must be a pronouncement on this constitutional provision.

 Lead responsible parties:  NEC and the Supreme Court

  1. Declare Code of Conduct exclusion rule inapplicable: Part V Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Conduct seeks to exclude from candidacy, high officials of the Executive Branch of Government who did not resign from their positions within a given period of time. In view of the doubts about the constitutionality of the provision (as it is now under challenge) and the disruptive effect its enforcement will have on the 2017 elections, the provision should be considered inapplicable to the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections in the same manner and spirit the 10-year constitutional provision was considered inapplicable to the 2005 and 2011 elections. 

Other Challenges of NEC

Other (external) challenges of NEC include the absence of the National Identification Cards, undue burden of citizenship verification, security landscape and test to the capabilities of our national security forces particularly during elections, and achieving reconciliation, pursuing national vision and advancing agenda for development.

Meanwhile the Governance Commission has clarified that its draft AGR recommendations on the Code of Conduct were mere suggestions to stimulate discussion and a possible way forward to clear doubts about the Constitutionality of the provision.

The Supreme Court has ruled 3 for and 2 against that Part V Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Code is law and must be fully adhered to.

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