West Africa: ECOWAS, UNDP Data Analysts Arrive to Clean-Up Voter Roll Ahead of December Elections

Monrovia — A team of analysts from ECOWAS and the UNDP are in Liberia to carry out a review of the voter roll and clean up where necessary ahead of the December 8 Special Senatorial Election and Referendum.

On Tuesday, the National Elections Commission (NEC) through its chair Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassanah announced the arrival of a team of data experts brought in country by ECOWAS and the UNDP. They, in collaboration with the NEC team, will work clean up the voter roll.

Their arrival in the country follows a request from President George Weah to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou.

In his September 16 request, a copy of which FPA has obtained, President Weah expressed the need for technical assistance to support Liberia's special senatorial elections and constitutional referendum. He indicated that Liberia needs support in the area of compiling the voter registration data following the voter roll update.

"In preparation for the 8December Elections, the NEC is updating the voter roll that was used for the 2017 General Elections. The update will include

"The update will include eligible Liberians who have attained the age 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 8 December, thus the need for ECOWAS' technical assistance," Pres. Weah stated.

Team Promises Thorough Clean Up

Speaking to reporters upon arrival in the country, Mr. Chidi Nwafor, head of the ECOWAS technical team at the NEC press conference Tuesday promised to be open and transparent to the public on issues and findings from the voter roll cleanup process.

Chidi Nwafor said: "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 solved 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 a 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."

At the same time, NEC chair has announced that the commencement of the exhibition of provisional voter roll begins Wednesday and ends on October 31, 2020.

The CPP's Firm Stand

The Collaboration Political Parties (CPP) making up the four major opposition political parties was resolute in their call for the clean-up of the 2017 voter roll and earlier expressed their disappointment in the refusal of Associate Justice Siene-A-Nyene Youh's decision to grant them a Writ of Mandamus which would have compelled the NEC to clean up the voter roll.

The complained to the Supreme Court that the NEC was ignoring the Court's 2017 mandate calling for a clean-up.

The Supreme Court's decision emanated from a complaint filed the late Charles Walker Brumskine who was then the standard bearer of the Liberty Party that finished third place in the first round of the election presidential election.

Arguing his case before the Supreme Court at the time, Cllr. Brumskine cited "gross irregularities" and stated that "This is not about losing or winning, it has to do with putting a system in place."

Besides several issues raised with the conduct of the first round of that election, Cllr. Brumskine who was 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. They called for the cancellation of the election and requested a re-run of the entire process.

The Supreme Court acknowledged the flaws in the voter roll in its opinion in that case, 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.

CPP petition to Supreme Court

The CPP took the National Elections Commission (NEC) to the Supreme Court on Friday, September 25, to file a Petition for a Writ of Prohibition calling 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 Chairman of the CPP, Mr. Alexander B. Cummings had alleged huge fraud in the voter roll update, stating that it was a clever attempt of the CDC-led government to derail the peace and stability of the country.

Cummings promised that the CPP will conduct a comprehensive awareness campaign across the country to inform Liberians in every town, village and hamlet about the danger of what the CDC-led government and its Elections Commissioners are doing with these elections.

Upon the denial of its petition to the Supreme Court, the CPP vowed to stage a sustained protest in various parts of the country until their request for a voter roll clean up could be considered by the government.

Cummings announced that the protest was to begin October 28.

CPP Suspended

The CPP, however, on Monday suspended the protest, indicating that they have seen signs of their demands being met.

In a statement issued on Monday, the CPP gave the following reasons for calling off the protest:

Pending Supreme Court Ruling- The Supreme Court agreed to hear our cases filed and issued a stay order on the process pending the outcome of the hearing. The matter was heard last week and the Supreme Court ruling is expected to be announced shortly.

Pending NEC Decision on Validity of Voter Roll Update- The formal ruling from the NEC on the validity of the just ended voter roll is pending, after a hearing by the NEC. The decision of the NEC may be subject to appeal, thus creating the need to exhaust all local and regional legal remedies.

Arrival of ECOWAS Technical Team -Last week, ECOWAS technical team arrived in the country to work with the National Elections Commission to assist with the cleaning of the Voter Roll. According to ECOWAS, the President had requested technical assistance for the cleaning of the Voter Roll.

Ongoing Consultations with Inter-Religious Council- On Friday, October 23, 2020, the Inter-Religious Council and the Collaborating Political Parties held a consultative meeting, to discuss the concerns of the CPP. The IRC requested time to intervene and hold further consultations with other political parties and the NEC, during the course of this week.

Regional Instability- Though not directly tied to our electoral concerns, the ongoing protests around elections disagreement in Guinea and Ivory Coast have created increased volatility of the region's stability. As such, a number of regional and international appeals from our partners to allow for intervention has been considered.

We have made significant progress in achieving our goals--without the protest. Therefore, it is logical to await the outcome of these developments, before proceeding with the protest if necessary.

Free, fair, and credible elections are important pillars for sustaining our peace and security. Therefore, we will continue to engage with ECOWAS, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia and other partners, to ensure that the right things are done by the National Elections Commission, so as to protect and sustain our peace and security. However, our next course of action will depend on the outcome of the various engagements, the ECOWAS technical team and final decision of the Court and the NEC primarily around the cleaning of the Voter Roll and the validity of the just ended Update process.

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