The Inter RELIGIIOUS Council of Liberia raised a number of pressing issues which many believe have the potential to disrupt the upcoming Midterm Senatorial elections in Liberia.
KEY AMONG those issues are the controversial trucking of voters, electoral and political violence, and reported registration of underage voters.
THE NATIONAL ELECTIONS Commission, tasked with the responsibility of managing public elections for the Liberian People in line with the laws of Liberia and international best practices as well as administering and enforcing all laws relative to the conduct of elections throughout the Republic of Liberia, has remained mum on the numerous reports of irregularities and flaws relating to the Voter roll process.
THE ONLY WORD from the commission has come from its Director of Communications, Mr. Henry Flomo, who while acknowledging that trucking of financially induced voters is against the electoral laws,
Was keen to state that the commission "does not go out looking for cases", and as such, it remains the sole prerogative of citizens to allow or reject the trucking of commercial voters into their respective districts or counties. "Trucking is against the law, but what we can come out to say is-the people out there are the first to either allow or stop trucking. You have a right if you see someone at your polling precinct or registration center to report the matter to the Registrar. You may not know every community member, but you have the right to protest; and that person can be stopped right there. If that person feels uncomfortable, then we have a case right there."
INCUMBENT MONTSERRADO County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, who has promised to challenge the process which has so far been flawed, pointed out this week that the commission's position amounts bias and lack objectivity.
SAID THE SENATOR: "Imagine Fire Service saying it will not act to rescue a burning house because the house owner has not personally asked Fire Service to do so! Imagine a Referee saying he ain't blowing for any foul being committed right before his eyes because the fouled player has not complained he's being fouled, even though the Referee sees the foul-play! The two instances represent the case with NEC and all the clear election violations being committed right before their eyes, yet they are doing nothing to discourage, prevent or punish violators in keeping with legal authority granted NEC! Do these people have any scruples at all?"
THE SILENCE OF NEC amounts to troubling developments for Liberia's post-war democratic revival.
REGARDING THE TRUCKING OF VOTERS, the Inter-Religious Council condemned the act in very strong terms and asks all stakeholders and citizens to desist from this unpatriotic action. "The IRCL calls on the National Elections Commission to apply the necessary component of the election laws to curb this unwholesome practice and prevent the holding of elections that do not represent the true aspirations of the people within a given electoral constituency or district."
SINCE THE NEC announced the commencement of the voter roll update, the electoral process has triggered a wave of negative reactions amid several reports of persons in several counties including Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, as well as other counties bordering Liberia's neighbors in northern and eastern regions of the country. "This act of wooing votes through financial inducements to involuntarily vote and/or campaign for particular candidates undermines our democracy and stability of our nation," the IRCL declared.
THE COUNCIL ALSO took issue and condemned all acts of electoral/political violence including the unfortunate developments reported in District 16/St. Paul Bridge, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties over the weekend. "The Council calls on the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia National Police to investigate these reported acts of violence and intolerance and bring the perpetrators to justice if we must continue to maintain peace and stability of our country. We call on all Liberians to say NO TO VIOLENCE! The Council appeals to friendly nations including the United States, European Union, etc. to place a travel ban on all political leaders who promote violence in the name of elections and politics."
THE COUNCIL ALSO slammed reports of under-aged children being registered to participate in the December 8th, 2020 Senatorial election. "As we are aware, the Voting age in Liberia is 18 years and above; any person registering below 18 years is ineligible and such action is considered as a fraud and a criminal act. This should be taken seriously by the authorities and community leaders. Those individuals should be exposed and brought to justice."
WHILE WE WELCOME the IRCL's stance and condemnation of all violations of election laws and regulations like hate speech, physical aggression including the use of cutlasses in political disputes, intimidation of journalists and campaigning before the statutory period, we must all face the reality that all of these are being driven by the unresolved and unaddressed issues the NEC has so far failed to tackle.
WE AGREE WITH THE ICRL that the NEC must be assertive in the discharge of its duties and to enforce all election laws with penalty impose on all violators as required by the laws of Liberia.
THE NEC holds the key to everything that is about to unfold in the buildup and aftermath of the December 8 Senatorial Midterm elections. If the chair and her commissioners fail to tackle these issue head on, no amount of statements from anyone, including the ICRL and the international community would appease disenchanted and dissatisfied Liberians unhappy about the process and how the buildup to the elections are being monitored and guided.
THE NEC CANNOT afford to keep quiet while these issues continue to mount. The memories of the rigged elections of 1927, the violence and multiple coups and eventual civil war that followed the November 1985 elections are still fresh in the minds of many.
NEC IS THE GLUE THAT holds it all together. How the saga end, only time and the political will of the electoral body responsible for leading these elections will determine how this all plays out.