19 March 2018

Liberia: Finance Ministry Rejects NEC U.S.$3.9 Million Request

The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has rejected the National Elections Commission's request for US$3.9 million, to conduct the Montserrado and Bong counties' Senatorial by-election.

Responding to NEC's request over the weekend at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism's (MICAT's) weekly press briefings, MFDP Minister Samuel Tweah said Government does not have such a huge amount to spend on the election of two senators who will be expected to end the unfinished tenures of President George M. Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, who both held the respective positions.

Minister Tweah's response came following NEC authorities recent pleas that President George Manneh Weah ensure that US$3.9 million is given for the conduct of the pending senatorial by-elections in Bong and Montserrado counties.

"While we are interested in obeying the orders of our constitution by holding by-elections to fill vacant public seats that call for election, it is also fair enough to say here that that amount is too huge and not in the interest of the pro-poor agenda of this government," he said, adding that the amount is unrealistic.

He said MFDP can make available US$1.5 million for the senatorial by-elections in both counties.

Both senatorial posts were rendered vacant following the presidential run-off election of December 26, 2017, in which then Senators George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor of Montserrado and Bong counties were elected as President and Vice President respectively.

At a press conference NEC chairman Jerome Korkoya said that given the time limitation for the completion of the senatorial polls, the steering committee, which has commenced work, needs the amount of US$3.9 million.

Korkoya said the steering committee was formulated on February 14 and has completed the preparation of the calendar for the events.

A member of the Board of Commissioners, Boakai A. Dukuly, is the head and director of compliance and risk management for the up-coming senatorial polls, while Anthony Sengbe has been appointed as co-chairman of the committee.

On February 13 the NEC received a formal notice, dated February 1, from the Senate, informing the Commission of the existence of two senatorial vacancies created as a result of the election of then Senators George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor of Montserrado and Bong counties as President and Vice President of Liberia.

The conduct of the by-elections is pursuant to Article 37 of the 1986 Constitution, which states that the "National Elections Commission shall, in not later than 90 days, thereafter cause a by-election to be held to fill these vacancies."

Shortly after receiving the Senate's communication, NEC on February 26 submitted its request to the Government for funding through Samuel Tweah, Minister of Finance and Development Planning.

A copy of said letter was forwarded to the office of the President for consideration of the need to make the funds available to the Commission, to conduct the two by-elections in time as mandated by law.

Of the 2.1 million registered voters for the 2017 elections, Bong has 208,123 voters, while Montserrado has 778,291. With the two combined, the NEC expects 986,414 registered voters to participate in the up-coming elections.

The two counties have a total of 2,292 polling places, with 1,790 in Montserrado alone, while 502 are in Bong County.

"These figures," Korkoya said, "represent 43 percent of the total number of 5,390 polling places in the country."

An estimated 12,000 temporary field staff, including poll workers, gender mobilizers, civic educators and electors and election supervisors will be required for the two by-elections.

When contacted via mobile phone to give the Commission's take on Minister Tweah's response, NEC communication director, Henry Flomo said NEC will respond at an appropriate time. He (Flomo) said the Board of Commissioners (BOC) is studying the MFDP's response and hopes to share its concerns with the government and the general public as soon as possible.


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