5 June 2014

Liberia: Mid-Term Elections Uncertain

The pending October senatorial election is being confronted with serious threat as the country's coffers, in need of US$10.3 million dollars to fund the process, bleeds, Senate Pro-tempore Gbehzohngar Findley has alarmed.

"This is a serious matter and we as legislators must now begin to help our government find this amount to carry out the process," he said over the weekend. Addressing a news conference, Findley said authorities at the National Elections Commission (NEC) have informed the Legislature that they need US$10.3 million to effectively conduct the mid-term election.

This request from NEC, according to him, triggered amendment in the elections law that saw an increment in registration fees for candidates which was later rejected by the House of Representatives. "The fact that our colleagues rejected that bill means that the ordinary citizens whose taxes are being extracted daily from the small-small businesses will have to pay the cost for the election when in fact majority of them do not have interest in contesting," he said.

"That is why in the mind of the Senate we thought to increase the registration fees to ensure that those candidates who have interest in this process pay a reasonable amount that would help raise the financial efforts of NEC to fund the process. "Sadly, our colleagues have rejected the bill and so the ordinary Liberians will now have to feel the pinch in funding this process through their taxes they pay." The Senate Pro-Tempore said donor partners have all declined to fund the process, leaving the burden on the government. "Our partners have told us that the government of Liberia will have to fund this election,' he said. "Can we as a government now raise US$10.3 million for the pending election in the face of our 64 million dollar budgetary shortfall? I hope we can do so before October." The recent rejection of the election reform bill by the House of Representatives worried the Senate. The Senate had voted to increase registration fees mandating that individuals vying for the presidency must pay US$25,000 as registration fees, while Vice Presidential candidate (s) US$15,000 before contesting.

They also agreed that the fees for candidates vying for the House of Representatives be increased from US$500.00 to US$3,000; while senatorial candidates' fees should increase from US$750.00 to US$5,000 or its equivalent in Liberian dollars. Currently, section 26.1 of the 2011 elections guidelines relating to the registration of political parties and independent candidates, mandates all presidential candidates to pay US$2,500.00; Vice Presidential candidates US$1,500.00 or its equivalent in Liberian dollars.

Rejecting the bill recently, members of the House of Representatives termed the increment by the Senate as unrealistic and one that seeks to debar low-income earners from partaking in the country's electoral democratic process.

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