18 February 2013

Liberia: CDC Predicts Failure

The main opposition Congress for Democratic Change or CDC has predicted that the ongoing constitutional and electoral laws reform by the government may fail if some key factors are not addressed.

Addressing a press conference at its headquarters in Monrovia over the weekend, CDC Secretary General Nathaniel McGill said the reform process may fail in the absence of strategic and coordinated implementation framework as well as public participation.

McGill noted the establishment of the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) is an important step in the reform process, but added that CRC must be given the space, time and support to move the process in a strategic fashion.

An Executive Mansion press release said President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has mandated the CRC to hold extensive and inclusive consultations to review the Constitution of Liberia and propose appropriate amendments for the conduct of a National Referendum by 2014.

In July last year, the CDC joined over 18 other political parties to launch the Political Consultative Forum (PCF) which focused on constitutional reform, electoral law reform, and public funding of parties.

The PCF has held series of consultations and seminars with key stakeholders, including the Governance Commission, Law Reform Commission, National Election Commission, National Democratic Institute and civil society organizations on the reform process.

McGill said given the complexity of the constitutional reform process, 2014 is too short a time frame to complete the exercise, since these reforms do not merely involve a few amendments, but fundamental and significant changes to the Constitution of Liberia as it is.

"Such outcomes compel an extensive dialogue and consultation with Liberians to engender public ownership of the constitution reform process. Article 91 of the Constitution imposes a minimum time requirement of one year for legislative approval of possible constitutional amendments before these are taken to a national referendum", he emphasized.

He pointed that holding any referendum in 2014 would undermine public ownership of the process, and fail to exhaust the critical issues inherent in the attempt to reform the Liberian Constitution in its post-conflict setting.

McGill: "Constitutional reforms affect the content of electoral law reform and the two should move in tandem. With the pending expiration of the tenure of majority of the Commissioners of the National Election Board of Commissioners -- five Commissioners are out of term in March 2013- the CDC believes reappointment of NEC Commissioners should happen in the broader context of electoral laws reform and should involve extensive consultations with political parties and other stakeholders."

He called on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to consult with relevant state actors to lend credibility to, and promote collective ownership of, the electoral law reform process, since any newly appointed NEC Commissioners may influence the course of electoral reforms, stressing that if much time is involved then the greater public will debate and make their input to the process.

"Elections have influenced the level of violence in Liberia. The 1985 elections affected the 1990 war since politicians refused to accept the legitimacy of the 1985 outcome, leading many to undermine the regime of President Samuel Doe. Recent electoral outcomes have also been marred by tension and have tended to raise similar questions of legitimacy. "

"We believe national security hinges on the quality and content of our Constitution and election law and we urge all relevant state actors to take these reform processes seriously", the CDC concluded, expressing its willingness to work with the National Elections Commission and the CRC to accelerate the reform process.

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