MONROVIA – The head of the Delegation of the European Parliament, Mr. Leopoldo López Gil, has once again highlighted the misuse of state resources by the government and local government staff for campaigning during working hours, as well as the use of government buildings and vehicles.
By Mae Azango, [email protected]
“The EU EOM observed mainly small-scale campaign activities. The lack of enforcement of campaign finance regulations continued to fail in ensuring transparency and a level playing field. The CDC had significantly more financial resources than the UP. The EU EOM directly observed the use of state resources by the incumbent, involving government and local government staff campaigning during working hours, and the utilization of government buildings and vehicles. In some instances, government institutions actively participated in the campaign,” he stated.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Grand Royal Hotel in Monrovia, he added that the Delegation also observed that freedoms of expression and the press continued to be respected. However, political patronage, low salaries, and a lack of diversified funding streams negatively impacted the quality and diversity of messages transmitted to the public.
“Out of the time allocated to political contestants by the state-owned broadcaster Liberia Broadcasting System, operating radio station ELBC and television channel LNTV, 70 and 84 percent respectively were allocated to the CDC. The UP received just under five percent of airtime on LNTV during prime-time hours,” he reported.
This marks the second preliminary statement of the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), delivered before the completion of the entire electoral process.
He further stated that critical stages remain, including the final declaration of results and adjudication of possible petitions, which the EU EOM will continue to observe. The EU EOM is presently only in a position to comment on observations undertaken to date and will later publish a final report, including a full analysis and recommendations for future improvements in electoral processes.
When questioned about the punishment for violators using state resources for electoral purposes, he clarified that it is within the state’s jurisdiction to take action and prosecute. The EU EOM, as observers, cannot interfere but can only observe and provide recommendations to the government.
“In the 2017 elections, we observed and gave our recommendations to the government, but only a few of the recommendations were implemented,” he noted.
Deputy Chief Observer Jarek Domański of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) also spoke at the conference. He mentioned that on November 14, Liberians voted in the run-off to elect their president for the next six years. The 20-day run-off campaign was largely peaceful and quiet, with candidates focusing on announcing endorsements from first-round unsuccessful presidential and legislative candidates. The campaign remained personality-driven, lacking issue-based activities or debates.
“Freedom of the press and of opinion continued to be respected during the run-off campaign period, but state-owned media continued to offer most of their news coverage to the incumbent. Closer to the run-off date, derogatory speech, inflammatory language, and misleading content intensified in social media. While political freedoms of candidates and supporters were largely respected, the use of state resources by the ruling party continued to distort the level playing field,” he highlighted.
He further stated that the EU EOM would present a Final Report with recommendations to the Liberian authorities and public opinion at a later stage. The EU EOM was invited by the Liberian authorities to observe the 2023 General Elections and has been present in Liberia since August 27. In total, the EU EOM deployed 85 observers from all 27 EU Member States, Canada, and Norway, across the country to assess the entire electoral process against international obligations and commitments for democratic elections, as well as the laws of Liberia. A delegation of the European Parliament, headed by Leopoldo López Gil, MEP, also joined the mission.