Liberia: CEDEM Raises Red Flag over Delay in Certificating Cape Mount Senatorial Election Winner

MONROVIA — The Center for Development and Election Management (CEDEM) has thrown its weight in many calls by individuals and groups for the certification of Simeon Taylor, declared winner in the December 2020 senatorial election in Grand Cape Mount County.

Since declared winner right after the election, his close rival and candidate of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, Victor Watson, has continuously challenged the result thereby stalling the certification of Taylor who won on the ticket of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).

In its letter to the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), CEDEM, an election management group of Liberian election experts, told Madam Davidetta Brown Lansannah “It is significant to note that it has been more than one hundred and sixty (160) days since Mr. Taylor was declared winner of the senatorial contest in Cape Mount County by the NEC.  Notwithstanding, he is yet to be certificated by the NEC, a situation that has prevented him from representing his county at the Senate.”

The election experts including former Chairperson of NEC James Fromoyan, former Commissioner Jonathan Weedor and others recalled and reminded the NEC Chairperson that Liberia’s dark past came because of contest over state power and the non-transparent manner that characterized the conduct of the 1985 and 1997 elections.

“The recent history of Liberia was darkened by the contest over State Power and the non-transparent manner that characterized the conduct of the Emmett Harmon led Elections Commission of 1985, and the G. Henry Andrews led Independent Elections Commission of 1997. The actions of Messrs. Harmon and Andrews were partisan and as a consequence, the conduct of the Elections of 1985 and 1997 was questionable and non- credible,” the communication noted.

Under the signature of the Executive Director, James Fromoyan, the communication noted further, “I wish to emphasize that the actions and activities of the Election Management Body of those periods greatly exacerbated the chaos that engulfed our common patrimony for more than fourteen (14) years. Thousands of our Fellow Citizens lost their lives during those dark days. It is our hope that you rise to the occasion and allow your actions at the NEC to be guided by our recent history thus placing you and your Colleagues among Patriots of our Country who stood the test of time in the supreme interest of the Liberian people. It is imperative that all peace loving Liberians, especially those who find themselves at the leadership of the National Elections Commission (NEC),  to at all  times remember that their actions and activities have the potential to consolidate or derail the Peace and tranquility of Liberia.  In this regard, we admonish you to be guided by Liberia recent past to ensure a safe landing for our Country in 2023.”

The delay in certificating the declared Grand Cape Mount winner has been attributed to “Legal technicalities,” which CEDEM in the letter the NEC uses to justify its inability to certify Mr. Taylor.  However, the group noted in its opinion that “While the NEC may refer to legal technicalities to justify its inability to certify Mr.  Taylor, we want you to know that no degree of legal constraint can justify the failure of the Commission to certify Mr. Taylor. As you may be aware, the NEC has made some positive achievements over the years and as such, there is a need for the Commission under your leadership to continue on such path to ensure the Peace of our Country and thus secure a positive space in history for you and your colleagues. The current delay associated with the certification of the winner of the Cape Mount Senatorial race is being perceived by the majority of Liberians and foreign observers as a Partisan drama in which the Commission has become an active participant. It is important that you act promptly to safe guard the credibility of the Commission.”

Also of concern to the election management body is the recently submitted budget by the National Elections Commission to the Legislature for the 2023 general and presidential elections in the tone of US$91 million. 

According to the group, it is gravely concerned about such a prodigious amount for the exercise and sees it unrealistic to impose it on a country with other complicated economic and health problems.

“Madam Chair, the NEC under your Stewardship is projecting an expenditure of Ninety-one million United States Dollars (USD91, 000,000.00). We are further informed that of this amount, biometric enrollment accounts for a little over twenty-nine million United States Dollars (USD 29,000,000.00). This is alarming. Biometric Enrollment for a Country of less than Three million (3,000,000) registered Voters should not cost more than Ten Million United States Dollars (USD 10,000,000.00). The NEC draft budget is astronomical, bloated, and beyond reason. What is even more puzzling is the fact that if the projected twenty-nine million (29,000,000) United States Dollars for the biometric enrollment is subtracted from the total draft budget of Ninety- one million United States Dollars( USD91,000,000.00),there is still more than sixty-million United States Dollars( USD60,000,000.00) left in the draft budget. Considering all inflationary pressures in the age of COVID-19, there is still no logical justification that the NEC can provide for requesting such amount to conduct an election in Liberia,” the group’s communication noted.

Adding, CEDEM said, “It is the most expensive electoral expenditure projected in the history of Liberia. Indeed, the draft budget set a new record for Liberia as a Country that would conduct one of the most expensive elections in Sub-Saharan Africa.  For a Country of less than five million (5,000,000) population, a total voter registry of two million, four hundred thousand (2, 400,000), and a national Fiscal budget of less than five hundred million (500,000,000), the draft budget is laughable and unrealistic.  Liberians and our foreign Partners could easily consider said budget as evidence of a disregard for transparent procurement practices. It could easily be concluded that there is a lack of credibility associated with the planning process of the 2023 General Elections. And of course, a faulty foundation cannot give rise to a solid structure. By this projection, the National Elections Commission is proposing to spend more than USD36.00 per Registered Voter at a time when International best Practice is focus on reducing the cost of elections in developing Countries to less than USD25.00 Per Voter.”

The election watchdog further cautioned the NEC that transparency is a major requirement especially in dealing with issues related to finance, and as such, it is requesting that NEC re-draft the 2023 Elections Budget consistent with “International best practice” for re-submission to the National Legislature for consideration

“By this action, the perception of falsehood and lack of transparency that is rapidly growing around the NEC could be erased, the credibility of the Commission enhanced, and the budget would meet the requirement of transparency thus attracting funding from International Partners,” the group concluded.

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