Poverty, Export Decline to Impact Electorates’ Decision in Liberia’s Elections


Monrovia – A Governance commission (GC) report has put high unemployment, inflationary pressures, declining exports and a state of persistent poverty as factor that could impacts the electorates’ decision.

Report by Henry Karmo –  [email protected]

High illiteracy rates, especially among women, slowly improving health care facilities, and significant challenges in the educational system and road infrastructure are among factors that could impact participation in the electoral process.

“The political environment is characterized by an over-active but less informed public realm and a range of civil society organizations (CSOs) that are not sufficiently empowered but are struggling to invigorate public space productively.”

The report titled “Annual Governance Report:

The Liberian Elections System” puts the Liberian elections at the core of democratic governance, and democratic governance drives as well as benefits from Liberia’s development agenda. The 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections are an integral part of Liberia’s Triple Transition.

The report also mentioned the  other two as the transfer of security responsibilities from UNMIL to Liberian security forces, which took place last year; and transition from the five-year Agenda for Transformation (AfT), which has just ended; to a new five-year development plan which, is in the making.

“The election of a new government in 2017 will mark the first time since 1944 that executive authority will be transferred from one elected president to another.

Moreover, these elections will lay the political foundations upon which Liberians will continue to maintain peace, advance development and pursue reconciliation. After 12 years of peace and significant progress, much is at stake!

“This report examines the institutions: actors, rules, procedures and processes that constitute the electoral system of Liberia. Its goal is to contribute to strengthening the electoral system so that it can successfully hold peaceful and credible elections.

“Beyond this immediate goal, the report also seeks to identify issues for post-elections electoral reform and to elevate consciousness about how elections are important to peace and development in Liberia,” the report states.

The report begins with a review of the environment within which elections are to take place and then explores the constitutional foundations and statutory law that frame the electoral institutions.

Drawing from recent election reports of the 2005, 2011 and 2014 elections to supplement GC investigation, the report identifies challenges that are likely to confront the 2017 elections.

In the GC report particular attention is paid to the resolution of election disputes, which are among the most critical challenges of the electoral process.

The report concludes with a summary of key issues, and advances some recommendations.

High amongst the findings include; the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections being held in an environment of excitement, laced with some important uncertainties which includes; 

High unemployment, inflationary pressures, declining exports and a state of persistent poverty shape the economic context that impacts the electorate.

High illiteracy rates, especially among women, slowly improving health care facilities, and significant challenges in the educational system and road infrastructure are among factors that could impact participation in the electoral process.

Also of importance is the signal from the international community as embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 2333 (2016), which authorized UNMIL continued presence up to March 2018, while calling on Liberians to demonstrate a higher level of responsibility for their own affairs.

The Constitution and Elections Law provide strong groundings for elections.

In some instances they are highly prescriptive, stipulating specific dates and timelines for events such as the holding of elections, the adjudication electoral disputes and the election of officers of political parties, ensuring internal democracy, among others.

Enforcement of some of the prescriptions has been problematic due to the inapplicability of these provisions or the lack of enforcement capacity of the Elections Commission.  

The GC report also mentioned  as example, the 10-year residency requirement for President that has been inapplicable over the last two presidential elections; and the requirements for the monitoring and inspection of the financial records of political parties by the National Elections Commission (NEC) have not been enforceable due to capacity constraints, among others. 

“Capacity gaps and spasmodic inflows of budgeted resources are among the major challenges that continue to affect the various phases of the work of NEC and, if not urgently addressed, could ultimately limit public confidence in NEC’s performance. 

“A review of the capacity gaps, business processes and funding of NEC should be among the critical issues considered in electoral reforms that are recommended to be undertaken after the 2017 elections,” the GC report stated.

The GC believes there are other issues affecting the electoral process that are external to NEC.

They named, lack of a national identification card, against which Liberian citizenship can be identified, poses a major constraint to voter registration and verification as it does to the process of voting.

According to the GC annual report the absence of such a card has imposed an enormous and unfair burden on NEC. 

Turf struggles have been among the complications that have delayed the issuance of a national identification card.

The area of elections dispute resolution resonates critically in view of experiences from the 2014 Special Senatorial Elections, when more than a dozen petitions were filed in the Supreme Court against NEC and various candidates.

The Supreme Court remained seized of electoral dispute appeals well into 2016.  

The security landscape is another area of concern.

Since the withdrawal of UNMIL, the upcoming elections pose the greatest test to the capabilities of the national security forces. Recognizing this challenge, the report references the efforts to organize a special joint security arrangement for the elections, headed by the Inspector General of Police.

“Government’s support for the security budget is an imperative.”

“This report also addresses election challenges within the context of Liberia’s long term needs of strengthening citizenship, pursuing the national vision, achieving reconciliation and advancing the agenda for development.”

“First is the need to protect the gains achieved thus far or that are in the pipeline in a range of areas that includes civil service reform, decentralization, land reform, gender equity and constitution reform.”

“The report perceives the 2017 elections as the vehicle which must create a successor government to protect and build upon these gains rather than ignore or reverse them.”