West Africa: Welcoming ECOWAS's Intervention in Cleaning of Voter Roll Ahead of December 8 Senatorial Midterm Elections

editorial

IN A SEPT 16, 2020 COMMUNICATION to the head of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou, Liberian President George Manneh Weah requests that the regional body provides technical assistance to support the upcoming Special Senatorial Elections and Constitutional Referendum slated for December 8, 2020.

THE PRESIDENT'S REQUEST on behalf of the National Elections Commission is seeking support in the area of compiling the voter registration data following the ongoing following the Voter Roll Update exercise.

THE PRESIDENT INFORMED the ECOWAS Commission that the NEC is currently in the process of updating the voter roll used for the 2017 Presidential and legislative elections.

SAID THE PRESIDENT: "The update will include eligible Liberians who have attained the age of eighteen years since 2017 and those who, for some reasons, did not register in 2017. Following the collection of data across the country from 11-25 September, the NEC will have a short window to compile such data and get it ready for December, the NEC will have a short window to compile such data and get it ready for December 8, thus the need for ECOWAS assistance."

THE ISSUE OF THE voter roll cleanup has been a major cause of concern for the opposition.

IN FACT, in 2017, a ruling by the Supreme Court of Liberia mandated the National Elections Commission to implement a voter roll cleanup process.

THE 2017 HIGH COURT MANDATE came about in the wake of preparations for the presidential run-off election, causing delays and pushing the runoff, initially scheduled for November 7 to December.

THE HIGH COURT'S decision emanated from a complaint filed by the late Charles Walker Brumskine, then the standard bearer of the Liberty Party which finished third in the first round.

THE LATE LP LEADER cited "gross irregularities" and stated that "This is not about losing or winning, it has to do with putting a system in place."

PUTTING THAT SYSTEM in place today stands out as the late Cllr. Brumskine's defining legacy.

CLLR. BRUMSKINE, backed by second place Unity Party headed by Joseph Boakai (vice president at the time) also complained of multiple registrations and flaws in the voter roll and called for the cancellation of the election and requested a re-run of the entire process.

AT THE TIME, the Supreme Court acknowledged the flaws in the voter roll but stated that the evidence was not sufficient to warrant the cancellation of the election results. The Supreme Court, however, in its attempt to avert a reoccurrence of such defects instructed the NEC to conduct a full clean-up of the roll in consultation with and information to the political parties.

MORE RECENTLY, the Collaborating Opposition Political Parties (CPP), a conglomeration of four major political parties - Alternative National Congress (ANC), Liberty Party (LP), Unity Party (UP) and the All Liberian Party (ALP) - took the National Elections Commission (NEC) to the Supreme Court, with a petition for Writ of Prohibition, which called for an immediate halt and cancellation of the ongoing Voter Roll Update (VRU) exercises, until the issues which border on the credibility of the elections are fully addressed.

THE ECOWAS COMMISSION has wasted no time in responding to President Weah's request and on Tuesday, the NEC through its chair Madam Davidetta Brown-Lanssanah announced the arrival of a team of data experts from ECOWAS and the United Nations Development Program(UNDP).

THE TEAM WILL WORK in collaboration with NEC to clean up the voter roll.

MR. CHIDI NWAFOR, head of the technical ECOWAS team told a news conference Tuesday that the process will be transparent to the public on issues and findings from the voter roll cleanup process. "Our Term of Reference is connected to the voter roll. Our idea is to work with NEC to access what they have done on the issue and make sure they are solve to our own ability. We will have to be open and transparent to the public on our work. If we see anything we cannot solve we will also note it with the commission, the political parties and allow them make decision at the policy level. Any issue no matter how stupid it may seem we will look at we will be open to our bosses, the NEC and the political parties."

FOR WHAT ITS WORTH, the intervention of the regional body must be welcomed by all Liberians.

EXHAUSTING ALL possible means to avoid conflict and disruption of Liberia's post-war democratic sojourn is always a good thing.

THIS IS WHY WE welcome the decision by the opposition political parties to put off its planned October 28 protest which was intended to mount pressure on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to clean up the 2017 voter roll.

ACCORDING TO THE FOUR PARTIES collaboration, the decision was based on Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Youh's decision not to grant the CPP a Writ of Mandamus sought by them to compel the NEC to clean up the Voter Roll.

THE CPP EXPLAINED that the court's decision to reverse its earlier ruling to now hear its petition filed, played a major role in its decision to put off the protest.

THE WEAH ADMINISTRATION must realize that a Free, Fair, and Credible elections are important pillars for sustaining peace and security in Liberia.

THE INTERVENTION AND ENGAGEMENT of ECOWAS, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia and other stakeholders and international partners is key to ensuring that the right things are done by the NEC, so as to protect and sustain the peace and security that Liberians and the international community fought so hard to gain, guard and preserve.

LIBERIA AND LIBERIANS have gone through so much and deserve periods of stability, and not a resurgence of the ugly period that all would prefer to forget.

WE HOPE THAT ECOWAS will see this process to the end and that all stakeholders in Liberia's political survival realize what is at stake and what is required to preserve the peace and keep Liberia on track toward preserving its post-war democratic space.

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