Liberia: National Elections Commission Uncertain of Sanctioned Officials’ Participation in 2023 Election

MONROVIA – The Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), David Etta Brown-Lansanah, has clarified that the entity has received no threats from anyone regarding barring sanctioned officials from contesting the 2023 legislative and presidential elections. 

It can be recalled, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three top Liberian government officials – of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) – for alleged public corruption, which prompted their immediate resignations from the George Weah-led government.

Two of those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department – former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill and Bill Twehway – are planning on contesting for the Senate seat in Rivercess and Margibi Counties in 2023.

Speculations have been rife that NEC has been warned by donors about the possible pullout of their support if people sanctioned are allowed to contest.

But Madam Lansanah, speaking to FrontPageAfrica, said she hasn’t received any threat from NEC’s partners regarding barring sanctioned officials to contest.

“We are more concerned about conducting voter registration in time for the 2023 elections. I am not concerned or worried about future threats. There are laws that govern the conduct of our electoral processes.

In response to a question on whether the NEC will accept applications from those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department to contest, she added:  “The NEC has received a mandate from the Government of Liberia on how to deal with such issue.

“The NEC is a Liberian entity. It receives mandates and those mandates are adhered to. We haven’t received mandates from the Government of Liberia. What we have is a mandate to conduct elections. Until we receive a mandate, what we have is to conduct elections with Liberians 18 years and above.”

There have been so many discussions about the possibilities of sanctioned officials participating in the pending 2023 presidential and general elections.

Some have raised legal arguments, while others think it is not legal, but would be morally wrong for the NEC to allow sanctioned officials to contest.

Recently, presidential aspirant Counselor Tiawan Gongloe, of the Liberian People’s Party (LPP), called on authorities of NEC to reject applications from any of the three former officials of the Government of Liberia (GOL) who recently resigned if they intend to contest the pending 2023 general and presidential elections.

Cllr. Gongloe emphasized that the involvement of the three former officials in acts of corruption has negatively affected the nation and its people.

NEC coy on LP crisis

Also, during her appearance on the ELBC Morning program, the NEC chair failed to clearly state whom the entity recognizes as chairman of the opposition Liberty Party and who is the party’s political leader.

“The commission is a regulator of political parties and when these political parties have issues and complain,  we use the authority given us by the Law to address those issues,” she said.

The host asked the NEC chairperson about a series of issues regarded the Liberty Party, and she gave responses. “Who does the NEC recognize as chair of the LP”? Madam Lansanah responded, saying: “I will not answer that question. “Who does the NEC recognize as the political leader of LP”? She replied: “I will not also answer that because you should have the information. “Who did NEC receive the constitution from”? She answered: “I will not answer that question.”

The chairman and political leader of the Liberty Party have been in disagreement over the authenticity of the party’s 2021 amended constitution submitted to the National Elections Commission since August this year.

Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence attempted to withdraw the amended constitution from the National Elections Commission (NEC) and urged the NEC to recognize the 2015 constitution as its legitimate constitution. 

The NEC, however, declined, stating that it would only recognize the amended constitution which was submitted in accordance with due process.

This means, no decision can be taken outside what is spelled out in the 2021 amended constitution of the party.

According to the political leader, the amended constitution submitted by the party chairman, Mr. Musa H. Bility, was neither reviewed nor approved by her. She stated that the minutes/report of the Special Convention which she presided over was also not reviewed or approved by her.

“A preliminary analysis, after a receipt of said document from your office upon my request, has revealed numerous errors including potential alterations amidst procedural error and breaches, the intent of which is subject to conjecture,” she stated in her communication to the NEC.

The communication continued: “All the above are in violation of established procedures, the Liberty Party By-laws & constitution, the rules of the NEC, amongst others. However, to maintain party unity, and arrive at a solution, I am appointing an inquiry committee. In the interim, the last adopted constitution of 2015 and filed with the National Elections Commission within the statutory time shall govern the affairs of the Liberty Party.”

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