Monrovia — The Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) of the European Union during the conduct of the 2017 general and presidential elections in Liberia has called on the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) led government of President George MannehWeah to intensify efforts towards the attainment of electoral reforms before the conduct of the 2023 elections in the country.
It can be recalled that in March 2018, the EOM of the EU finalized and submitted to the Liberian government23 recommendations intended to ensure electoral reforms and help sustain the country's democracy.
Paramount among the recommendations submitted include: Initiation of a constitutional referendum process for the successful removal of the ethnic definition of Liberian citizenship by the National Legislature, Review of Article 83 of the constitution in light of the Supreme Court ruling of November 6, 2017, and Progressing towards a passive voter registration system based on a reliable civil register thus enhancing participation in elections and addressing uncertainties inherent to achieve voter registration.
Others are: Opportunity to vote for all qualified citizens, including persons turning 18 between registration and Election Day, as well as detainees and the hospitalized, should be granted, Modify legislation (consider enacting the Affirmative Action Bill) and NEC Candidate Nomination Regulations for enforceable affirmative action for women participation, Consider the extension of domestic observation groups to the whole electoral cycle to reinforce the role and participation of civil society in monitoring and reform of the electoral process.
The EOM of the EU was in the country on a follow-up mission aimed at assessing the degree to which the EU recommendations for improving the Liberian election framework from 2017 have been implemented in the meantime, as well as to discuss ways to achieve further progress on electoral reform.
While in the country, the group met with President George Manneh Weah, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC), the leadership of the National Legislature, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, and headsof several ministries, political parties, civil society organizations, the media and the international community.
Addressing a news conference in Monrovia at the climax of the follow up mission over the week end, the former Chief Observer of the Electoral Observation Mission of the EU to Liberia, Madam Maria Arena, disclosed that the recommendations proffered by the body would be meaningless if the Liberian government, through its relevant actors fails to take actions.
Madam Arena is also a member of the European Parliament.
She noted that the decision taken by the Mission to follow up on recommendations submitted to the Liberian government is intended to ensure that citizens benefit from electoral reforms and a sustained and vibrant democracy.
Madam Arena added that all around the world electoral processes are marred with challenges, but the necessary reforms are required to improve democracy in those areas.
"In 2017 the Liberian authorities asked Europe to be there; and we decided to be there. We made these recommendations-it is not for Europe. It is because Liberia asked us to do so. But if we do recommendations without implementation-It's no use".
"We know that when changes are needed, it takes time for democracy to change-be it the judiciary system, legislative, or civic education system. And so, it is necessary to initiate something before it is too late.2021 is not too late, but 2023 is too late. We have to do it as soon as possible".
She disclosed that out of the 23 germane recommendations proffered to the Liberian government by the EU, few others remain top priorities for the Liberian people.
She observed that women constitute about 50% of the country's population and as such, they must be included in the democratic system of Liberia.
Madam Arena added that Liberia remains a signatory to multiple international conventions which are legal frameworks that compel the West African nation to ensure women inclusion into democratic processes, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, African Charter on Human and People's Rights, African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, among others.
"You also have your constitution. Your constitution says you have to promote these gender balance situations in your country. The Liberian constitution is not against women, but it's for women. So, the Liberian authorities must use this constitution to have more women in the democratic system".
She stressed that government should also find ways to make it mandatory for the inclusion of more women in the democratic system of the nation, especially by requesting political parties to have a fixed number of women in their structure or on their party's tickets.
Madam Arena indicated that for an electoral process to be supported by the citizens, the entire process has to be transparent beginning with the voters' registration exercise.