Liberia: National Elections Commission Laments Lack of Money for October’s Midterm Senatorial Election

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MONROVIA – The National Elections Commission (NEC) says it still does not have the fund to conduct the midterm senatorial election which is slated for October. The NEC Chairman, Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah has alarmed that the Commission is running out of time for the preparations of the election and the referendum. 

“I think it is good to start early to meet up with our timeline, I am worried that if we don’t have money now to start the education of our people for the election process it might be a problem,” Cllr. Korkoyah.

He disclosed that the timelines and regulations for the election have been developed and approved including all of the technical works leading to the election are set but there is no money to start the process.

The NEC chairman said Liberia’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah proposed that the process be funded in phases, something Cllr. Kokoyah said was accepted but the Commission is yet to receive the first US$7 million to fund pre-electoral activities which include voters roll update, retrieving of lost cards, voters registration, among others.

“To be frank with you, election is expensive and we don’t have money yet, this may hamper the process if there is no money to meet the timeline. I don’t want us to ignore that, we have been working with the Minister Tweah and his team at the Ministry of Finance and the Minister has proposed that we cut down the budget from US$27 million to US$15 million but we have not gotten any amount yet to start the process. I am confident that the government will do something because this is the first major election under this administration and I think they will want to work harder that the funding is available,” Cllr. Korkoyah said.

Cllr. Korkoyah clarified that the cutting down of the activities by the NEC will in no way affect the process.

“We’ve cut down a number of activities but not at the detriment of the process to meet up with our new budget which is between US$14 or US$15 million. I am not too sure about the figure but that was a substantial reduction,” he said.

He said works that are supposed to be done by two persons have been cut down to one person, saying, “For example, if a poll worker was making US$300, it will be cut down to US$150 to meet up with the current budget”.

 He further noted that, “The government wrote a commitment for US$7 million for the first phase to start the pre-election process but the latest information I have is that the Ministry of Finance is willing to process the first US$2 million out of the US$7 million and they are currently making efforts by being in talks with other stakeholders like the legislature to see how the rest of the US$5 million can be raised to complete the first phase,” he disclosed.

“To be frank with you, election is expensive and we don’t have money yet, this may hamper the process if there is no money to meet the timeline. I don’t want us to ignore that, we have been working with the Minister Tweah and his team at the Ministry of Finance and the Minister has proposed that we cut down the budget from US$27 million to US$15 million but we have not gotten any amount yet to start the process.”

– Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah, Chairman, National Elections Commission

He, however, appealed to Liberians and politicians to accept the inconveniences the adjustment may cause.

“There are little consequences the process would face but we are calling on all Liberians to make some sacrifices because it will take time for one person to do the job of two persons, but we don’t have the money so we all need to bear it because it’s time consuming,” he said.

Commenting on the upcoming referendum, the NEC boss Cllr. Korkoya disclosed that both the senatorial election and the referendum will be held the same day due to the lack of funding.

He said, “It is important that we get money now to start the process of educating the people on how the process will be since we will be dealing with symbols. For example, the tenure of the reduction of the presidency will be represented by symbols and these symbols need to be explained properly to our people who do not read or write and even the entire public needs to know those symbols and they need to be educated how to vote even before the process starts,” he said.

The past few by-elections were delayed primarily due to lack of funds. Many have seen this midterm election in October as a challenge for the Weah’s administration with the election being the first major under the administration of the government.

Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon recently said he would not contest the election if the NEC fails to conduct the election as the constitutional date. Sen. Dillon said he would not support the violation of the Constitution and noted that any election outside the constitutional date would be illegitimate which he would not be a part of.

It can be recalled that the Montserrado and Bong Counties by-elections that brought Senators Dillon and Henrique Tokpah to the Senate was delayed on several occasions by the NEC due to the government’s failure to make available adequate funding for the election. 

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