NEC is Responsible to Conduct Free, Fair Elections

…As International Community Pledges Support, But…

By: Jonathan O. Grigsby, Snr. Contributor

MONROVIA-As Liberians are gradually gearing up for the 2023 General and Presidential Elections slated for October, both the electoral management body of Liberia and international partners are exerting all efforts to ensure that the process is free, fair, transparent, credible as well as peaceful.

Over the weekend, representatives of the international community in Liberia, comprises of the Embassies of the United States American (USA), European Union (EU), as well as the United Nations (UN) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a day discussion with Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC).

The meeting has held in the conference room in the James Formoyan Hall at the headquarters of the National Elections Commission in the Sinkor suburb of Monrovia focusing on the 2023 general and presidential elections.

Speaking at the start of the meeting, United States Ambassador accredited in Monrovia, Michael McCarthy said the International community will support the National Elections Commission (NEC) in the conduct the 2023 general and presidential elections.

Ambassador McCarthy said the National Election Commission is accountable to the Liberian people as such, it must conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

US Ambassador: “Of course election is a very technical thing and NEC has to try to win the approval of the international community or partners and the partners will vigorously support NEC  through the next fourteen months of the 2023 general and presidential elections; but we will hold NEC accountable for any shortcomings in anything you do, so promise everybody we will be watching you”.

He said the meeting was an opportunity for the exchange of views from the National Elections Commission (NEC) and representatives of the international community that is hearing from NEC and NEC hearing from them.

Also speaking ECOWAS Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Josephine Nkrumah; praised NEC for the level of work done so far and urged the Commission to continue upholding it integrity.

“Because of the work the National Elections Commission has done over the years in the conduct of elections in the sub-region, it has given the international community the confidence of NEC to be supportive”, Ambassador Nkrumah pointed out.

Speaking on behalf of the joint delegation, UN Resident Coordinator to Liberia, Niels Scott said, their visit represents the importance the international community attaches to the electoral processes leading to the conduct of the 2023 General Elections.

Ambassador Scott said the delegation came to hear from the commission how matters are proceeding and what support the Commission may require. The delegation is anticipating that their visit and support to the Commission would strengthen citizens’ trust in the work of the Commission.

In response, NEC Chairperson, Davidetta Browne – Lansanah thanked the international community for it role in the peace and security of Liberia.

Madam Browne – Lansanah indicated that election is the bedrock for the stability of any nation around the world and assured the international community that integrity will be in the hallmark of NEC  as a means to build confidence in the Commission.

She iterated the National Elections Commission’s plans to use Biometric Voter Registration in the 2023 general and presidential elections following two years of engagements with partners, stakeholders, civil society organizations, members of the legislature and individuals, among others.

The joint delegation of the international community included the UN, Ambassadorial Missions, including the European Union (EU), the United States of America, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain, and the ECOWAS Commission. Other Ambassadorial Missions, included those from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Nigeria. The Country Managing Director of the African Development Bank, (ACDB) and the Ambassador of Lebanon also participated in the meeting.

A biometric voter registration initiative is slated to start on December 15, 2022, and conclude on March 17, 2023.

The process will be held in three regional phases, according to the announcement. During each phase, the region’s registration center will be open for three weeks.

Before they begin, the NEC is planning to develop custom registration software, set up servers, have staff trained by the technology vendor, and take possession of imported biometric hardware.

The Commission has budgeted US$61 million for Liberia’s 2023 elections.

The Biometric is transitioning from optical mark recognition for secure voter registration to fingerprint biometrics

Portable tablets with fingerprint scanners will be used to capture thumbprints for a biometric voter registry.

The biometrics could also be used for deduplication and the prevention of impersonation.

Facial images will also be collected, and the NEC will attempt to reduce the volume of incorrect voter data in the system.

Following deduplication, biometric voter registration cards will be issued from registration centers.

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