MONROVIA-In the wake of pervasive pre-campaigning initiatives in the country by political actors ahead of the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections, the Electoral Body, the National Elections Commission, (NEC) is yet to develop a framework that will prohibit these gross violations.
With barely one month to the kick-off of active electoral activities in Liberia and with the introduction of a Biometric Voter’s Registration (BVR) System in Liberia, the Electoral Body mentioned that there are no available regulations to guard the issues of the campaign and pre-campaign activities for the 2023 Legislative and Presidential Elections.
Addressing journalists Tuesday, February 7, 2023, in Monrovia at the Headquarters of the NEC, the Chairperson of the NEC, Cllr. Davidetta Browne-Lansanah said the NEC is still reviewing the regulations for the 2023 Elections.
“We do not want to act on emotions or perceptions; this is why it is necessary to have the regulations in place and we are reviewing the draft regulations. When we shall have finalized the regulations and publish it, we will let the public to know,” the NEC’s boss told journalists in Monrovia.
The NEC’s boss’s statements were in response to questions posed to her by reporters over concerns of perceived pre-campaign activities making specific reference to the February 4, 2023 One Million Citizens Rally staged by the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, CDC at the ATS.
“Our Political Affairs Section is going out in all counties, not only Montserrado County, to observe political activities across the country, they will look into those concerns and report to the public,” she said.
“The regulations spelled out sanctions for violations of rules and that is why we are calling on all political parties to observe the rules and stay in the confines of the electoral laws,” Madam Browne-Lansanah warned.
Meanwhile, the NEC Chairperson has reminded political parties, coalitions, alliances, and independent aspirants that the campaign period for the 2023 General Elections is from 5 August to 8 October.
The Commission warns that when there is a violation of its revised Regulations and Procedures, through verbal expressions or symbolic speeches, it will apply the appropriate sanction, including a fine of up to US$5,000.00 or its Liberian Dollar equivalent as stipulated in Chapter 11.
Speaking Tuesday during the launch of the 2023 Biometric Voter Registration (BVR), Bi-Monthly Briefing Session, NEC Chairperson, Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah clarified that an aspirant only becomes a candidate to contest in the pending elections after being qualified during the Candidate Nomination Period.
A statement from the Commission said, Madam Browne Lansanah urged all political actors and stakeholders to continue promoting non-violent engagements and urged the public to take advantage of existing legal channels in addressing grievances.
She announced that NEC received US$14,225.000.00 (Fourteen Million, Two Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand United States Dollars) of the US$18.37 Million US Dollars allotted by the Government.
NEC, she said is in discussion with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning on the remaining US$4,150.000.00 (Four Million, One Hundred Fifty Thousand US Dollars) to support the contractual arrangements with Laxton Group.
The NEC statement released on Tuesday said, she informed that Laxton Group, the vendor procuring the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) equipment, and software and will support NEC in its implementation, has been working closely with NEC/UNDP Technical Teams to ensure that the voter registration software is fully built to function for the BVR exercise. She said Laxton has been in the country for several months and has conducted first and second-level testing of the software.
“Out-station testing of BVR equipment and software was conducted on January 25, at Division 16, Firestone, to ensure that capturing of fingerprints for manual laborers will not be difficulty during full implementation,” Chair Browne-Lansanah said.
Madam Browne Lansanah also thanked the Government, international partners, and the Liberian people for supporting NEC.
These two contradictory statements on the part of the NEC send out a serious wave of concern to political actors and observers on the issue of confidence, trust, and reliability as has already been said by the country’s Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor.
How can one be fined for a draft regulation? That is something to be judged by the public.