Home Governance ECC Slams Weah’s Petition Rally …Blasts NEC “For Setting a Dangerous Precedence”

ECC Slams Weah’s Petition Rally …Blasts NEC “For Setting a Dangerous Precedence”

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By: E. Geedahgar Garsuah, Snr.

MONROVIA: The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), an elections observatory civil society organization, has observed that the petitioning ceremony, organized by the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), for the re-election of President George Weah, was held in a “category of campaign activity.”

According to ECC, such action is a flagrant violation of Section 12 of the National Elections Commission’s (NEC) Regulation on the conduct of political parties and coalitions.

“The CDC’s rally was characterized by wearing T-Shirts and printed banners, depicting the picture of the President when the official campaign period outlined in the election timeline has not started. This violation undercuts the principle of a level playing field required for the conduct of a fair and credible election,” ECC said, in a press statement, dated Monday, February 6, 2023.

The ECC further observed that days leading to the rally, the CDC erected billboards that displayed the picture of the President in various parts of Monrovia, and NEC, has failed to take any action in keeping with Section 12 of its Regulation.

The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) is believed to be Liberia’s largest domestic election observation network with diverse competencies, experiences, and expertise in democracy, elections and governance. It was established in 2010.

ECC’s member institutions include Center for Democratic Governance (CDG), Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Center for Conflict Prevention and Peace-building (CECPAP).

Others are Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD); NAYMOTE Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-PADD); West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), and the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL).

ECC works in partnership with Democracy International with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

ECC also highlighted that the failure of the National Elections Commission (NEC), to enforce its Regulation sets a dangerous precedence and undermines its neutrality as an independent Election Management Body (EMB).

In another development, ECC said it is deeply concerned with the statement made by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, describing most of NEC’s Election Magistrates as “corrupt.”

ECC therefore calls on Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor to provide evidence to substantiate her assertion against the NEC Election Magistrates.

The Vice President further stated that the Magistrates needed to be rotated or changed.

However, ECC, in its statement, maintains that Vice President Taylor has no authority to call on the NEC to rotate or change Election Magistrates.

According to the ECC, the Vice President’s statement is an attempt to interfere with the operations of NEC and undermine its independence.

“We call on the NEC to resist any form of external control and influence from political parties or those holding public offices. The pre-campaign activity and attempt to influence the NEC are early warning indicators of challenges ahead of the October 2023 elections.

Recently, Vice President Howard-Taylor who is a former Senator of Bong County for two consecutive nine-year terms and now, running mate of incumbent President George Manneh Weah, on the ticket of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), disclosed that most of NEC’s Election Magistrates are “corrupt.”

Addressing the Catholic Archbishop, Michael Kpakala Francis Intellectual forum in Monrovia over the weekend, Vice President Taylor, who is also political leader of the former governing National Patriotic Party (NPP), now a constituent party of the ruling CDC, pointed out that “Some of the NEC Magistrates have been in such positions for so long, since 2005.

“I can tell you for free, most of the electoral magistrates are corrupt. They will tell you upfront that I am the system in whatever county; you are not going to win if you don’t deal with me,” she told the forum.

According to the Vice President, in Liberia, people lost elections not because they don’t win, but electoral processes of the country are always “in jeopardy from the beginning.”

She emphasized that many of the NEC Magistrates who have overstayed are noted for receiving bribes and other enticements from politicians in advance.

Among other things, VP Taylor called for the immediate rotation of all NEC Magistrates in order to preserve the integrity and credibility of the October 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.

She stressed the dire need for the Magistrates to be rotated in order to have a safe environment for the elections.

“They need to be rotated, they need to be changed, whatever the NEC needs to do that will provide an enabling environment for people to feel safe to participate in the elections,” VP Taylor added.

Madam Taylor emphasized that the country’s current electoral process is in jeopardy (danger).

The Vice President’s disclosure comes on the heels of the crucial 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections in Liberia.

She maintained that it is necessary to change the current NEC Magistrates as Liberians go to the polls later this year.

Ahead of the polls, the VP is also concerned that issues arising from electoral disputes that end up at the Supreme Court could plunge the country into constitutional crisis.

“Any process that takes longer than necessary or bothers down with so many issues and ends up in the Supreme Court, we may have a constitutional crisis,” stressed VP Taylor.

Recently, the 54th National Legislature, through the Senate, (the Upper House) of the country’s bicameral Legislature, enacted an Act that calls for the removal of all election magistrates.

The Senate version of said Act is currently before the House of Representatives (Lower House), for its concurrence and onward submission to President George Manneh Weah for signature.

Section 2.24(a) of the amended Act states that “90-days after the passage of this Act, all Elections Magistrates in the 15-Counties must be removed and positions considered vacant. This section also gives the right to those removed Magistrates to re-apply.”

However, reacting to VP Taylor’s assertions against the NEC Magistrates, the Commission’s Communication Director, Henry Flomo said, he does not respond to politicians, whether big or small.

Mr. Flomo was quick to add that the NEC, headed by Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassaneh, as Chairperson, has explicit confidence in its entire staff including Election Magistrates across the country.

He categorically refuted claims that NEC Magistrates are susceptible to acts of corruption including receiving of bribes and other kickbacks to award undue election victories to undeserved winners.

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