It's no secret that elections provide the bedrock needed for the sustenance of any democracy, that's why I have argued repeatedly, that no matter what you take away from democracy, if you do not take away free, fair, and transparent elections, democracy will use same to repair itself.
Elections do have real consequences; and in every election, the future of young people, the issues of women's rights, press freedom, and the advancement of peace and international justice are all at stake.
At the Foundation for Human Rights Defense, we concord with popular views that the most fundamental principle that defines a credible election is a reflection of the free will of the people.
The effort to advance democracy is buttressed by several electoral process-related obligations, as well as a number of key freedom and rights perimeters, each of which is derived from national and international protocols.
Elections represent a continuous, integrated and deliberate process made up of building blocks that interact with and influence each other, rather than as a series of isolated events.
So, for anyone who cares about patriotism and the image of their country (Liberia) abroad, there has to be a unanimous consensus that any action that compromises the integrity of the election process is absolutely unacceptable. The value of a free and fair elections are much more important than the loyalty owed to any political party etc.
It is obvious that free and fair elections are intertwined with democracy, meaning they cannot be healthily detached from one another, and in our constitutional republic, a very critical part of the system is that elected officials are accountable to the people, and that they must return to the voters at prescribed intervals to seek their mandate to continue in office.
One thing is clear for sure, that is, those who choose to promote democracy and all its tenets must understand that there will be consistent efforts by some in the following directions:
1. A clear effort to silence the voices of dissent and intimidate the media.
2. An effort to establish a parallel and friendly media network to conduct specific propaganda functions on behalf of the power that-be.
3. The politicization of civil society institutions by placing regime friendly individuals in positions of authority rather than filling public offices with individuals based on their qualifications.
4. The use of government surveillance capabilities against domestic political opponents.
5. Enforcing the law on an unequalled basis and eliminating the system of checks and balance etc.
In the Liberian scenario, while there exists no full-blown dictatorship styled effort to prevent free and fair elections, we have seen some signs in recent years including relentless efforts to silence the voices of dissent. We have also noticed what appears like a clear and direct interference of the Executive Branch of government in the works of the other two branches of government, including the use of State powers to harass and intimidate vocal opposition figures.
Going forward, if those amongst us who desire absolute powers must not be allowed to succeed in destroying our country's democracy, then we must all work together to share the burden of speaking out, helping our neighbors, and undertaking community initiatives that will set the stage for future generations to carry on the legacy of freedom and justice.
We must not allow the culture of silence and impunity to persist, and we must remember at all times the words of Nelson Mandela: "If man can learn to hate, then man can learn to love." This makes me believe that the quest for absolute powers is something that people learn over time because of the internal and external factors that affect their thought processes along the way.
We at the Foundation for Human Right Defense (FOHRD) are going to be closely monitoring the entire process leading up to the upcoming mid-term election in Liberia. This election is very important as it is going to be the litmus test for the main Presidential and General Elections in October 2023, and the test it provides will go a long way in determining if Liberia's democracy can survive these difficult times.