Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya, Chairman of the National Election Commission (NEC), has promised to partner with the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) for the betterment of future elections through citizen involvement.
Mr. Korkoya said that in a 'young democracy' like Liberia, the Commission does not have the resources and all of the expertise needed to undertake a comprehensive electoral reform process. "That is why the effort being led by the ECC is very essential to the entire process".
His comments were made at the launch of an electoral law reform project led by the ECC and the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) in collaboration with the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI). The project launch, held at Corina Hotel in Sinkor, brought together representatives of Liberian civil society groups, political parties and government institutions as well as members of the international community.
In his overview remarks, Harold Aidoo, head of IREDD and the ECC steering committee, said there was a need for a project to address 'voter confidence' by improving Liberia's electoral systems and laws. The project will actively advocate for a reform agenda that will include several amendments to the New Elections Law, amendment of the Code of Conduct of Public Officials, and amendment of the Constitution, so as to ensure a consistent and responsive framework for credible future elections. He went on to explain that the project will design and implement a robust advocacy campaign to publicize the reform agenda and stimulate citizen participation.
"This project will also be the engine of grassroots support, to spur the views of citizens across the country," Mr. Aidoo said.
In response, the NEC boss told the gathering that as they focused on electoral law reform, it was important that they look at the process as more than just an exercise to change rules and regulations. Rather, the process should incorporate an exploration of reform that would help citizens understand the logic and intention behind proposed changes. "Reform should not be rules focused; we also need to provide enough information so the people understand the process. What was the law and why should it be changed?"
Korkoya: "You can argue that we have been in existence as a country for so many years but the true and complete democratic process started in Liberia not too long ago. So, there are many people including major political actors who do not understand what the process is about, as such". He continued that while it is important to have some reform in election law, it is also necessary to be careful "not to drive the reform exercises into a complaints outcome". because sometimes those complaints are the result of people not being fully aware of the laws. "Not many people understand that NEC has a threshold."
Alyson Grunder, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, said the path of electoral reform was not necessarily an easy one, and will present significant political challenges. With amendments to legal codes, new or revised legislative measures, constitutional change and public referendums potentially "on the horizon", Grunder stressed the need for staying close to the fundamental principle of any electoral reform process: inclusivity for the benefit of the citizens. "Inclusive governance is essential in maintaining the health of Liberia's democracy and peace." she said.
Speaking in her capacity as Chief of Party, Madame Milica said the goal of LAVI is to support Liberian partners, such as the ECC, to strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships that advocate for and monitor accountability in policy reforms. She continued that LAVI is also intended to support all Liberian citizens by providing mechanisms and opportunities through which they can voice concerns to their government and relevant parties. She therefore called on citizens and community members "to be at the core of electoral reform interventions because they are directly affected".