Liberia: Senatorial By-Election Postponed Indefinitely over Lack of Funds
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
Monrovia – The National Elections Commission (NEC) has received only US$500,000 from the government out of US$2.7 million required to conduct two senatorial by-elections this year in the country.
The by-election was to be held on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 in keeping with the Constitution, but such was not possible.
The polls are to be held in Bong and Montserrado Counties to fill the void created due to the ascendency of President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor who served as Senators for those counties.
According to the NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah, the Commission was unable to conduct the by-election in the constitutional timeline due to the lack of finance.
He said a new date for the election would be determined by the Legislature but noted that the new date would not guarantee the conduct of the by-election unless adequate funding is made available.
Article 37 of the Constitution calls for by-election to be held 90 days after a vacancy is announced in the legislature.
“We called you here today to say that it will not be possible to do the by-election in the constitutional time frame of 90 days. This is as the result of financial reasons. As you recall, the NEC earlier submitted a budget of US$3.9million for the conduct of by-elections in the two counties which account for 50% of voters in Liberia,” Cllr. Korkoya said.
“In elections, cost is driven by the total number of voters. The government through the Ministry of Finance claimed that that amount was high. We contacted the Legislature through the committees in both houses chaired by Senator Milton Teahjay and Representative Alex Grant and at the close of that meeting, we agreed to cut down some activities and so the final figure agreed between the government through the Ministry of Finance and the NEC is US$2.7million,” he disclosed.
Out of the US$2.7 million, the government informed the NEC that they will provide US$1.8 million for election while donors have agreed to assist with US$500,000.
“As of today, we have received US$500,000 from the government and that it’s grossly inadequate to conduct the election and because of the different positions and statements that were made when the budget was submitted, I want to inform you that more vendors are careful and do not want to pre-finance any of our activities particularly international procurement.”
So far, Cllr. Korkoya said, the NEC has used US$100,000 on the nomination of candidates process.
“We have done assessment of all of our polling places in Bong County and bought materials for the data center and did replacement of cards.
“The board has decided that given the financial situation, we open a special account where US$300,000 of the remaining US$400,000 will be deposited for election kits while the balance US$100,000 will be deposited into another special account for ballots which is the cheaper of the two,” Korkoya said.