The real debate before 2023 is electoral reform
Through Martin KN Kollie
Liberian activist in exile
CDC presumptive flagship incumbent George Manneh Weah could rig the 2023 general and presidential elections if proper safeguards through electoral reform are not put in place. The probability seems high because the anti-democratic precedents quickly suffice in the months that remain.
We have been calling for electoral reform since 2018 and this pressing national concern cannot be ignored. Fortunately, the European Union (EU) reinforced our call by echoing the 23 previous recommendations it made after a flawed 2017 election. I did a summary for national review.
Twenty-three (23) recommendations from the EU Election Observation Mission (EUEOM):
- Launch a constitutional referendum to remove the ethnic definition of Liberian citizenship and use civic education to campaign against racial discrimination.
- Review electoral laws and civil procedure laws to consolidate all relevant time limits and procedural extensions.
- Establish lower courts of appeal to alleviate an overburdened Supreme Court, which could also assist in the speedy handling of cases, including election complaints.
- Amend the 2014 Code of Conduct Act to promote participation and the right to stand up.
- Review the criteria relevant to the creation and registration of political parties in order to promote more cohesion and politics within party organizations.
- Review of regulatory requirements for the nomination of candidates by political parties and related assessment procedures.
- Review the provisions on electoral offenses to address and eliminate any ambiguity and inconsistency.
- NEC will review and modify all appeal deadlines to ensure consistency and fairness throughout.
- Comprehensive practical training for lawyers and hearing officers must be implemented well in advance of the 2023 elections.
- Examination of article 83 and its implications relating to the time limit for processing complaints against the results of the presidential election, drawing on the SC judgment of 6 November 2017.
- A review of NEC regulations and guidelines relating to the timely publication of NEC BoC decisions.
- The delimitation of electoral constituency boundaries must be carried out in accordance with the Constitution of Liberia and international obligations.
- Consideration of support for the existing project to create a civil status register and its use as a basis for the registration of voters potentially in transition to a passive voter registration system.
- Formulation of harmonized regulatory requirements in a single legal instrument.
- Support and strengthen the commitment of political parties and their observers to ensure electoral integrity.
- Establish an appropriately resourced campaign and party finance department within the NEC to strengthen institutional capacity.
- Increase the capacity of the NEC to review submitted reports.
- Implement effective measures to guarantee voters the opportunity to vote for all qualified citizens.
- Consider amending the legislation (NEL 4, §4.5 and / or the adoption of a bill on affirmative action) and NEC regulations to obtain enforceable affirmative action for women’s participation and ensure greater representation in decision-making roles within the electoral administration.
- Further improve the access and possibility for people with disabilities (PwD) to vote through measures for better accessibility of PPs, the provision of tactile ballots and the integration of information on their use in civic education and electoral.
- Consideration should be given to introducing a legal provision for free airtime for political parties and candidates on public broadcasters in order to allow all eligible candidates to communicate their programs effectively and to ensure equal treatment of candidates. political parties and candidates.
- Preserving a free media environment is essential to ensure the success of Liberia’s efforts to safeguard peace and stability and protect basic human rights.
- Consider extending national observation to the entire electoral cycle and strengthening the role and participation of civil society organizations in monitoring and reforming the electoral process.
We overwhelmingly welcome the EU’s call for GOL to implement these basic democratic reforms which are not only achievable ahead of the 2023 elections, but essential for peace and stability in Liberia. We call on opposition political parties to focus more on electoral reform before 2023. This would certainly save our democracy from potential collapse.
The EU spent a total of US $ 62.2 million to help finance our 2017 elections and provide appropriate budget support.
1) 2017 – 10 million euros (11.2 million US dollars)
2) 2016 – 16 million euros (18 million US dollars)
3) 2015 – 29.2 million euros (33 million US dollars)
If the EU’s recommendations cannot be heeded, we call on them to suspend all financial support for the elections in Liberia until such reasonable reforms are carried out or implemented.
Are democratic actors and political decision-makers listening? Those who have faith in democracy must now begin to follow this path in the best interests of Liberia.
About the Author: Martin KN Kollie is an activist who currently lives in exile. He is a supporter of good governance, democracy, equality and human rights.