BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa -The National Elections Commission or NEC will today climax a two-day awareness and civic education on the Liberian elections law. The exercise began on Tuesday in Buchanan and is part of the ongoing election reform process with support from UNDP.
The event will also climax an ongoing regional awareness and sensitization campaign the NEC kicked off in June. Participants of the two days gathering, including elders, women, youth, media practitioners and civil society actors were drawn from River Cess, Margibi and Grand Bassa counties.
NEC Director for Civic Voter Education, Paul Wreh-Wilson, Sr. said the regional sensitization and awareness campaign was intended for the review of electoral laws and policies of the commission. Wreh-Wilson said the exercise was also meant to inform citizens and pave the way for the pending nationwide electoral reform consultations that will capture the views and recommendations of citizens on the current elections laws.
“We thought to engage the revision of the law with that of awareness with our stakeholders in the counties, he said.
“We were privileged to visit Grand Gedeh two weeks ago, Bong, Bomi and now we are in Grand Bassa. We hope to inform the major stakeholders about what is containing with respect to reviewing the electoral laws of Liberia, those that are not realistic with our time can be changed; those that need modification can be modified and see how well we can move further.”
He revealed that the revision of the election law came out of the recommendations made by local and international elections observer organizations on the need for reform, following the 2017 elections.
“We have not started the key consultations, what we’re trying to do is to raise the level of sensitization amongst our people that there is a need for electoral reform,” he also disclosed.
“The need to look at those that are realistic, those that are unrealistic, those that need some constitutional revision; those that need NEC own policy revision and all can be reviewed.”
He named constitution issues such as political parties’ regulations, NEC’s judicial functions, and women participation as other recommendations that would form part of the reform process. He said the date of elections, voter registration, and election administration, electoral districting, outreach, and access to information are also key recommended issues for reform.
The NEC Director for Civic Education in an interview with reporters highlighted the commission’s responsibility to internally conduct lessons learned conferences and that recommendations are made to examine its shortfall and where possible amendments can be made in order to meet international standards.
He said as part of the NEC’s plan to review the recommendations proffered by local and international observers along with its own recommendations, the commission has set up a technical working committee to develop the roadmap.
“Basically, those were the reasons why we try to do the sensitization and proffer to our people so we can have the opportunity,” he also noted.
“So, probably by 2020 if all goes well [the] referendum can come up with those that need constitutional revision and then other recommendations can be made or adherence to the laws can be made to those that just need to be relatively reviewed.”
Meanwhile, participants at the Buchanan’s gathering were drilled through the relevance of electoral reform and its roadmap, and the way forward for the roadmap on the reform process. He said in Grand Gedeh, Bong and Bomi counties, citizens named the proposed change of election date and the resignation of elected officials before contesting for other elected position as key reform issues.
Wilson told The Bush Chicken that holding elections in October, the peak of the rainy season is challenging for the candidates and voters to interact, as well as the electoral body in distributing and retrieving electoral materials and candidates.
“Normally, we have already been faced with the issues of inaccessibility of roads and local funding for the electoral process,” he said.
Article 83(a) of the 1986 constitution of Liberia states that voting for the President, Vice-President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year.
The NEC official said the change of elections date tops recommendations proffered by citizens across the country and local organizations such as Election Coordinating Committee or ECC and the Liberia Elections Observer Network also known as LEON.
The NEC official also disclosed that a nationwide consultation on electoral reform will kick off shortly after the end of the regional exercise on Wednesday. The nationwide exercise will bring together lawmakers, superintendents, ordinary citizens, and civil society actors to decide the fate of the electoral reform process.
He said the views, recommendations, and comments from the nationwide consultations would be compiled and sent to the legislature for a possible recommendation in 2020.
Featured photo by Sampson Davids