MINNEAPOLIS, MN: The Association of Liberian Journalists in The Americas (ALJA) has called on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to release the Final Registration Roll of the ensuing Legislative and Presidential Elections scheduled to be held on October 10, 2023 in consonance with the provisions of the 2022 Voter Registration Regulations.
In a release issued over the weekend, ALJA expressed serious concern over the delay in implementing several elements of the electoral process, including the release of the Final Registration Roll, which it believes, is creating concerns amongst various political parties, independent candidates, the international community and other stakeholders in the electoral process.
The ALJA release referenced Sections 16.5 and 16.6 of the Voter Registration Regulations signed by members of the Board of Commissioners of the NEC on October 7, 2022 which states that the Final Registration Roll (FRR) shall be available at each election’s magisterial office across the country for public inspection and that the NEC may provide stakeholders with electronic copies of the FRR in a secured form.
The Association urged the National Elections Commission (NEC) to meticulously and fully implement every planned activity preceding the elections including adherence to the elections laws and applicable regulations governing each activity contained in the key dates of the elections in a timely manner in order to avert the casting of aspersion on the integrity and credibility of the elections.
ALJA reminded- the NEC that it is under constitutional obligation to provide regular updates to the Liberian people and their international partners on the state of the electoral process and all issues that have the proclivity to cause delays to the process.
ALJA, at the same time, called on all political parties, independent candidates and their supporters to exercise high level of maturity and tolerance during this crucial period in the nation’s history and refrain from making provocative statements and threats of violence that are tantamount to derailing the hard-earned peace of Liberia.
Meanwhile, ALJA says it is troubled by the persistent wave of importation of illegal drugs and other contrabands into the country through the Roberts International Airport (RIA) and other ports of entry in the country.
The Association said the smuggling and use of illegal drugs in the country have become prevalent over the last few years and have not only begun taking a toll on the health and well-being of the youthful population but also continues to threaten the security of the country.
It can be recalled that on September 11 and 20, 2023 respectively, consignments of the highly addictive and dangerous methamphetamine drug disguised as Organic Stevia Green Tea Leaves, were seized at the Roberts International Airport by personnel of the Liberia Revenue Authority, while in October 2022, the Drug Enforcement Agency seized 520 kilograms (1,146 pounds) of cocaine estimated at $100 Million US Dollars concealed in a huge consignment of frozen poultry products that had been delivered to a cold storage facility near the Freeport of Monrovia.
ALJA stressed that while unemployment, food security, and the rule of law pose an enduring threat to the Country, drugs continue to kill and harm thousands of youths in Liberia.
At the same time, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), has called on the National Elections Commission (NEC), to promptly release the Final Registration Roll (FRR) for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
Recently, opposition political parties staged protests in front of the National Elections Commission (NEC), demanding the swift publication of the FRR.
The National Election Commission has committed to making the Final Registration Roll available on September 29, 2023.
The voter roll, which contains the names and information of eligible voters, is a crucial element in any election and plays a pivotal role in ensuring a transparent electoral process, PUL said.
Section 16.7 of the ‘2023 Voter Registration Regulations’ states that the National Election Commission is prohibited from making any modifications to the Final Voters’ list within 30 days before an election unless ordered to do so by the Supreme Court.
In a press release issued on Monday, September 25, 2023, PUL stated that the delay in publishing and distributing the list in physical copies has exposed the elections to potential legal challenges.
“These avoidable gaffes should be prevented in a process as consequential as a national election,” the PUL release said.
According to the release, “The Union views this publication as a demonstration of the fundamental value of conducting peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and verifiable elections in Liberia.”
The Union stressed that adhering to the electoral body’s timeline for releasing the Final Registration Roll would have bolstered public confidence in the election’s outcome, but it is never too late to rectify the process.
The PUL release was signed by
Akoi M. Baysah, Jr., Acting Secretary General.
Similarly, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL), has called on the National Elections Commission (NEC), to release the Final Registration Roll (FRR) for the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections.
The group said the apparent delay by the NEC to publish the FRR has been one of the contentious issues raised by the country’s opposition political parties, civil society and pro-democracy groups.
NEC has assured that it will release the FRR on September 29, 2023.
At the same time, the NCSCL has renewed its call for the Liberian government to provide the remaining amount of funding needed for the conduct of the elections, owing to the critical nature of the elections.
The ensuing 2023 elections are being squarely supported by the Government of Liberia (GoL), hence, NCSCL, which the apex body of all CSOs in the country, in a statement pointed out that domestic financing of elections is a must and as such there should be no excuse for providing the full amount needed ensure a free and peaceful conduct of all the remaining processes.
It can be recalled that the Chairperson of NEC, Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassanah, while appearing before full plenary of the Liberian Senate recently, pleaded for the remaining US$3M plus.
Madam Brown-Lassanah, who disclosed that the government has provided a little over US$49M to the Commission for the conduct of the October 10, 2023 Elections, maintained that the remaining US$3M plus is needed to conduct possible run-off elections.
She pointed out that the amount so far disbursed by the government represents 80 percent of the US$53M budget requested.
“The Commission needs the balance of a little over three million dollars to conduct possible run-off elections,” said the NEC boss.
Based on this the account of the Commission’s latest disclosure, NCSCL is calling on the Liberian government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to do the needful by providing the remaining 20 percent so that the country would have a smooth electoral process.
As part of its roles and responsibilities to the Liberian society, the Council vowed to thoroughly observe the entire electoral process – pre and post electoral activities including financing among others that have the propensity of undermining the credibility of the entire process if not provided.
“Domestic financing of elections is a must! No excuse! MFDP needs to transfer the remaining 3 million plus, which they have promised to do. We are observing the space,” stated the statement captured under the signature of Chairperson Madam Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai.
“This is the first elections without support of UNMIL and while the UN is providing electoral support, the Government of Liberia is primarily responsible for electoral financing,” it added.
In execution of Article 77(b) of the Liberian Constitution, eligible Liberian voters will go to the poll to on October 10 elect a President/Vice President, 73 Representatives and 15 Senators with the two former steering the affairs of the state for the next six years and the latter for nine years. In those elections, President Weah, standard bearer of the ruling CDC, will contest against 18 opposition candidates.