MONROVIA – Ahead of the October 2023 general and presidential elections in Liberia, a local human rights organization Integrity Watch-Liberia has raised alarm over the delay by the Government of Liberia (GOL), through President George Manneh Weah to sign into law the new elections law of the country.
By Obediah Johnson, [email protected]
Liberians are expected to elect their new leaders in the presidential and legislative elections on Tuesday, October 10, according to a timetable released by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Integrity Watch Liberia is a civil society organization dedicated to promoting transparent, equitable and inclusive governance and democracy through public policy reforms.
It can be recalled that in October last year, both houses of the 54th National Legislature passed the new elections law of the country, with new amendments.
The Representatives and Senators amended Section 3.1, Section 4.5, Section 4.5 (1d), Section 5.12(3) and Section 7.3 (2) respectively of the new elections law of 1986 and forwarded to the President office for signing into law.
Section 3.1 which deals with the registration of voters was amended to grant Liberians in the diaspora voting rights provided they will meet the requirements listed in the Act. The requirements include; possession of a valid Liberian passport or a National Identification Card (NIR) known as Citizens ID Card and a voter card.
Section 4.5 of the amended law sets aside 30% exclusively for women representation in every political party. It mandates all political parties in the county to ensure that about 30% of candidates submitted to the National Elections Commission (NEC) are females.
Section 4.5 (1d) of the Elections Law amendment called for a Political Party or Coalition to have at least one woman contestant for every primary at a convention for each constituency.
The amendment also affects Section 7.3 (2) which deals with application and registration fees. This amendment increases registration fees for the Presidency from US$2, 500 to US$5,000, Vice Presidency from US$1,500 to US$3,000, member of Senate from US$750 to US$1,500 and member of the House of Representatives from US$500 to US$1,000.
The amendment, among other things, affects Section 5.12(3) which talks about hearing and determination of complaints. This amended section seeks to create an independent body in which its members cannot be dismissed or subjected to disciplinary action based on their ruling.
But in a statement issued in Monrovia on Wednesday, February 1 under the signature of its Executive Director Harold Aidoo, Integrity Watch-Liberia maintained that it is deeply concerned of the lack of progress since these amendments were made by the legislature for the president’s signature.
“We are even more troubled that given the high-stakes elections, the President failed to mention progress in this regard as we inch closer to the October 10 2023 Legislative and Presidential Elections.”
The group observed that the government is yet to show real commitment or political will that translates into adequate action to ensure the signing of the amendments into law.
“We are inclined to believe that the delay by the President not to sign the law is an attempt to walk back on his commitment towards democratic reforms and the holding of free, fair, credible and transparent elections.”
Meanwhile, Integrity Watch Liberia has called on the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government, particularly President George Manneh Weah to prioritize the signing of the law ahead of the elections.
The group also called on Liberia’s international partners to urge the government to live up to its democratic governance reform commitment.
It remains unclear why President Weah is dragging to sign the amendments into law.
However, there are sticky issues including a portion of the amended law calling for the seats of all election magistrates serving across the country to be vacant ahead of the elections. It also called on those magistrates to reapply if they are still interested in serving the commission.
The astronomical increment in the registration fees for candidates vying for various elected positions is another issue of concern among the citizenry.
Those who passed the amendments, including Representatives and Senators have consistently justified that the increment in the registration fees of candidates is intended to raise more revenue for the government and prevent anyone from just thinking about contesting for the presidency, vice presidency, senatorial and representative positions.
But on the other hand, many believe that the move is intended to perpetuate themselves into power and deprive other well-meaning Liberians from contesting against them.
Citizens are of the conviction that a level playing field must be created for everyone to contest for elected positions if the tenets of democracy must be upheld in post-conflict Liberia.