BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – Lawmakers have begun working on crafting an electoral reform bill, beginning with a two-day legislative working session in Buchanan.
Organized by the House Standing Committee on Elections and Inauguration with support from USAID’s Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative project, the session brought together government agencies such as the Law Reform Commission, along with civil society organizations such as the Elections Coordinating Committee and the Liberia Elections Observation Network.
The chairman of the House Standing Committee on Elections and Inauguration, Rep. Alex Grant of Grand Gedeh’s third district, told The Bush Chicken that the meetings aimed to compile all election reform proposals from informed stakeholders. Those proposals would then be debated through public hearings throughout the country to develop an electoral reform bill for enactment by the legislature.
“We are leading the process of reforming the electoral laws of Liberia,” he said. “Some of the issues reported to us have to do with Article 83c of the constitution, Article 77b, and the elections administrative laws.”
Article 83c gives the National Elections Commission adjudication power over election disputes. The establishment of an extrajudicial body to assume NEC’s judicial responsibilities is among several recommendations made by the Elections Coordinating Committee. It is a call that has support with some within the justice system, including the stipendiary magistrate of the Bopolu City Magisterial Court, Augustine Tokpa.
Tokpa had said he believes that NEC’s existing role creates a potential conflict of interest, as the agency would be a player and a referee at the same time. Meanwhile, in a previous interview with The Bush Chicken, NEC’s chairman Jerome Korkoya had rejected calls to establish an extrajudicial body.
“NEC is the referee not by accident, [but] because NEC develops the rules for the elections,” he said.
Rep. Grant said other recommendations being considered dealt with the constitutionally mandated date for Election Day, the composition of the elections management board, and campaign financing.
“We are discussing them, and we will take them back and see how we can draft electoral laws that will help reduce [the] burden on the country that will help to reduce some of the inconsistency we have,” he added.
Grant said electoral reform was critical to reducing conflicts in future elections, noting that if an electoral reform bill is passed, it will ensure that electoral issues are dealt with amicably.
“Our contemplation is to ensure that this law passes before we close for this year’s legislative recess, before the end of August,” he projected, adding that the legislature would like to have the law passed at least 10 months ahead of the 2020 election.
The Grand Gedeh lawmaker said recommendations from international partners and local stakeholders would be compiled and examined through a series of nationwide public hearings beginning June 6, 2019. He estimated that the public hearings would be concluded by the second week of July 2019.
This article was produced with funding from Internews for the Citizens in Liberia Engaged to Advance Electoral Reform (CLEAR) project.
Featured photo by Sampson David