6 October 2017

Liberia: Report - Liberty and Unity Parties Breached Campaign Regulations

Monrovia — Survey conducted by the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) shows that the ruling Unity party (UP) continues to enjoy the advantage of accessing state resources far more than any of the contending parties.

According to IREDD, state resources are being misused, especially human resources and state-owned vehicles for campaign purposes across the country.

The IREDD report also states that while public buildings and facilities have been widely used to have campaign posters posted by politicians, some privileged politicians can easily access some public facilities that others may not.

"The practice, according the NEC does not violate the Constitution or the elections law, thereby leaving all parties and actors the choice of placing posters in public places they deem fit. Public resources, however, come to include all government and state-owned resources that are not privately owned.

"Therefore, this act should be condemned as it is a privilege that certain politicians' unnecessarily enjoy at the expense of others who otherwise cannot easily access certain government institutional buildings.

For example, no politician other than lawmakers can post campaign stickers on behalf of themselves and the political institutions they represent or support on walls of the Capitol building. The question is what about the other political parties that are not represented in the legislature?" Aidoo stated.

The IREDD report which is the second in a series of press statement on IREDD's monitoring of electoral integrity and abuse of incumbency in the October 10th 2017 legislative and presidential elections report details monitoring efforts from its monitors across the country from August to September 2017.

In the midst of these heavily competitive and intense campaigns, IREDD has documented a number of incidences and violations which amounts to abuse of incumbency and violates the electoral laws of Liberia.

The report: "The Code of Conduct clearly speaks against the use of official working hours and the services of public servants for unofficial and party gains in section 8.1 and 8.2. While it is true everyone identifies with a party ideology, the gross and blatant violation of official working hours for campaign purposes glaringly undermines the established laws."

According to the civil society group, the violation was predominately documented in Monrovia when the Unity Party launched two campaign events in Monrovia on September 13 and 16, 2017. September 13's launch was hosted in District #11 where Mr. Richard Koon is contesting the Legislative seat.

IREDD noted that the venue of the launch was at the Barnesville Sports Pitch. Managed by the Barnesville Old-Timers Sports Association (BOSA), the field was previously booked by the 'Good Guys' to host the annual area League of one month sponsored by incumbent Representative Gabriel Nyenkan.

However, the organizers of the Richard Koon campaign and a planned visit of the incumbent Vice President and Standard Bearer of the Unity Party, saw the field double booked (it was still booked by Good Guys) through the intervention of the Defense Minister; Hon. Brownie Samukai with no record of it being paid for.

Aidoo in a press conference Thursday said, with the electoral playing field already heavily populated, electorates should be concerned as a good number of political competitors will get elected by inducing voters with all sorts of gifts and promises.

"The timing of these offers speaks to the fact that they are meant to buy votes. Vote buying has often inaugurated bad leadership.

"As we've informed the press and the Liberian people in our previous press conference, the Electoral Integrity Project funded by the National Endowment of Democracy is aimed at strengthening Electoral Integrity and minimizing the abuse of incumbency in the October 2017 presidential and legislative polls. With four days to the elections, political parties across the country have intensified their scramble for votes with campaign activities drawing closer to their final leap," he added.

IREDD also linked the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) and Liberty Party to vote buying.

According to Mr. Herald Aidoo, NASSCORP has been accused of funding the party's campaign by granting the Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI), a company owned by the LP's Vice Standard bearer, Hon. Harrison Karnwea a $US 1.4M to operate the Cocopa Rubber Corporation, a claim NASSCORP has distant itself from.

IREDD, however, applauded the level of tolerance in the competition amongst political parties and their affiliates as they participate in the political processes and also condemns acts of political violence in Nimba and Montserrado Counties.

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