Liberia: Opposition Political Parties, Civil Society Decry the Appointment of ‘Partisans’ to Head the National Elections Commission
MONROVIA – President George Weah’s recent nominations to the National Elections Commission (NEC) have once again come under a barrage of criticisms as the neutrality of both the chairman and co-chair-designate has come under questioning by the opposition bloc and civil society.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
President Weah on Monday nominated Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lansanah as Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Prior to her preferment, Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lansanah was nominated, confirmed, appointed and commissioned co-chairman of the NEC. She was subsequently appointed Acting Chair of the Commission after President Weah withdrew the nomination of the then Chairman-designate, Cllr. Nbudisi Nwabudiki.
She holds double Baccalaureate Degrees in Public Administration and Political Science respectively, from the University of Liberia.
Commissioner Browne-Lansanah holds a Masters of Public Administration Degree in Public Sector Management at the Cuttington University Graduate School.
She is a veteran Broadcast Journalist and has worked at the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), Star Radio and the Talking Drum Studio.
She worked for many years as National Communications Officer with the United Nations and as Associate Gender Officer with United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
“The CPP is going to initiate discussion around what course of action to take. From where I sit, I can tell you that the CPP is not taking this kindly any attempt to populate the elections commission with partisans, diehard loyalists and people whose only mission is to bend the result in favor of the ruling party.”Mr. Aloysius Toe, Head of Secretariat, CPP
The President also nominated Cllr. Teplah Reeves as Co-chairman of NEC. She is to replace the elevated Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lansanah.
While the both appointments were greeted with applause in some quarters, the biggest opposition bloc says it sees a partisan elections commission and would very soon begin engagements with the appropriate authorities to have the President rescind his decision or have the Senate reject the nominations.
Speaking to the FrontPageAfrica, Mr. Aloysius Toe, head of the secretariat of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) recalled that Mrs. Lasanah was first nominated to the NEC through a recommendation made to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Mr. Toe explained that in 2011 when the former NEC chairman, Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah, was nominated, there were several dissatisfactions within the opposition at the time over his Unity Party membership, especially so when he had contested the election in Bong County for a seat in the House of Representatives but lost.
Despite producing proof that Cllr. Korkoyah had terminated his membership with the ruling Unity Party at the time, Madam Sirleaf offered Pres. Weah who was the biggest opposition leader at the time the opportunity to nominate an individual to serve as a commissioner of the NEC.
The former President’s move was an attempt to bring some balance to the elections commission. President Weah then recommended Mrs. Lasanah who was subsequently nominated as one of the commissioners of the NEC.
“If you have a hardcore politician being appointed to lead an impartial and neutral body like the NEC that is not only a threat to our democracy, that is also a potential threat to the peace and stability of the country,” Mr. Toe said.
He added, “The CPP is going to initiate discussion around what course of action to take. From where I sit, I can tell you that the CPP is not taking this kindly any attempt to populate the elections commission with partisans, diehard loyalists and people whose only mission is to bend the result in favor of the ruling party.”
Also expressing his concerns and disapproval of the nominations, Mr. Oscar Bloh, the chairman of the Election Coordinating Committee, said appointing a co-chair who is known to be a partisan of the ruling establishment to the NEC is disingenuous.
“As long as you are a partisan, you have already created a clout of public perception about your neutrality, about your impartiality and no matter how hard you try to even make the best judgement the political parties that would be losing always insinuates, always makes unnecessary problems to push you to the wall where they will say you were once a member of a particular party.”– Mr. Oscar Bloh
He said though previous regime had taken similar move, it was his expectation that the Weah-led government would have broken the status quo.
Mr. Bloh referenced Section 2.5 of the Elections Law which prohibits anyone on the Board of Commissioners at the Elections Commission from being a political party affiliate. He further lamented the weakness of law for stating that in the event where the individual is confirmed, before taking his/her seat and performing your functions and responsibilities, s/he must take an oath to denounce all relationship with a particular political party. “That’s a contradiction in the law itself so that portion of the law needs to be revisited and amended.”
Mr. Bloh added, “As long as you are partisan, you have already created clout of public perception about your neutrality, about your impartiality and no matter how hard you try to even make the best judgement the political parties that would be losing always insinuates, always makes unnecessary problems to push you to the wall where they will say you were once a member of a particular party.”
He called for the avoidance of such mistake, especially in this new political dispensation having experienced and complained about it in the previous regime.
Mr. Bloh: “We had hoped that the current government would have taken due notice of this to avoid the appointment of an active partisan like Cllr. Teplah Reeves. She is a professional colleague of mine, I know her well, I’m not questioning her qualification or competence, I’m questioning her close alignment with the ruling party, CDC. There is sufficient evidence to show that she contested on the CDC ticket in Rivercess County.”
According to the electoral reform advocate and chairman of the election monitoring body, there is no evidence that Cllr. Reeves had denounced or left the CDC.
He said that elections are about public perception though they are grounded in laws, perceptions play a major role in the acceptance of election results.
“That’s why we think that the appointment of a strong CDCian may create some clout, especially so when the person is not just a member of the board but also the co-chair,” he said.