Ahead Of 2023 National Elections, Naymote Reflects, Issues Statement

Mr. Eddie Jarwolo, Executive Director Naymote

Liberia is at a crossroads leading to the 2023 presidential and legislative elections, constitutionally slated for October 10, 2023. Liberia has made some democratic gains with the conduct of three successive presidential and legislative elections (2005, 2011, 2017); however, the peace remains fragile.

Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Executive Director, Eddie D. Jarwolo asserted at the Ambassadorial level meeting organized by the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, a United Nations intergovernmental advisory body of both the General Assembly and the Security Council that supports peace efforts in conflict-affected countries. The event was held virtually on Monday, November 14, 2022, at the One UN House.

He commended the Peacebuilding Commission, (PBC) and international partners for their support in sustaining the democratic gains but cautioned that the 2023 election is expected to test the credibility and strength of the national institutions, particularly those tasked with various aspects of the election, from election administration to security and dispute resolution. It is also likely to further expose the extent of state fragility should the institutions fail to deliver more effectively on their mandates.

On the other hand, some people especially the opposition youth perceived Police as ‘partisan police’. A lack of trust in these institutions is likely to translate into a lack of trust in the entire electoral process when the same institutions remain in charge without substantial reforms. This is further compounded by inadequate financial and human resources to expand the operations of the Liberian National Police to all counties, particularly those considered to be conflict-prone.

This vulnerability is particularly alarming with the increasing ownership of radio stations in the counties by politicians that are branded as community radios. Of grave concern is the issue of political militancy across the country which could be a threat to sustaining peace and democracy if not addressed adequately.

He said the plan to transition from Manual Voter Registration to the Biometric Voter Registration system is likely to improve the quality and credibility of the process. This will likely reduce instances of multiple voting, fraud, and other irregularities that the manual registration process has been unable to identify and resolve.

He said the National Legislature has made some changes to the New Elections Law to increase women’s political participation and the adjudication of electoral petitions. This law will broaden the space for participation, particularly for women, and increase the number of women in the legislature.

He said the existence of two active and independent domestic elections observation groups, the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON), as independent citizen observer groups will boost the legitimacy and credibility of the outcomes of the polls. These groups have gained enormous experience and capacity from participating in previous elections through observation and reporting on electoral processes and are currently working on organizing and deploying short and long-term observers to monitor voter registration, campaign, and all aspect of the voting process.

He appreciated the continuous interest of the international community and development partners especially the United Nations and the Peacebuilding Commission to provide financial and technical support to the electoral process and follow up on key developments. For example, a project on a peaceful electoral environment will be a great opportunity to mitigate electoral violence and improve electoral outcomes, the UNDP Electoral Support Project, Peacebuilding Office, and UN Women sustained support continue to impact women’s and youth political participation, etc.

He told participants that as we move closer to the date of the general and presidential elections, there are some challenges that could affect both the administration of the process and the credibility of the outcomes. The following are some of those challenges:

Uncertainties and access to public information surrounding tendering for the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system could affect the timely conduct of the voter registration exercise and the conduct of the elections.

The conduct of the census has been delayed by four years. Even though the process for the conduct of the census has commenced, it is unclear whether the census result will be used by NEC to reapportion constituencies based on the new population figures in adherence to Article 80 (d) and (e) of the Liberian Constitution.

He said the back-and-forth proceedings between the NEC and the PPCC are a clear demonstration of the lack of coordination and collaboration that are needed for the timely procurement of election materials.

It has been observed that, rather than mobilizing and igniting the productive energy of the youth, political leaders instead use the youth as instruments of violence (or militants) against their opponents.

He calls on the President of Liberia, George M. Weah to sign into law an amended code of conduct, and electoral law that is needed to enhance credibility and the timely allocation of efficient financial resources to the NEC for election administration.

He recommended that the NEC must in the interest of time adopt the appropriate technology for the BVR, and in line with established procurement standards and a Joint Security Taskforce should be supported with resources and training to develop a feasible electoral security strategy that it may deploy throughout the electoral cycle for the security of all stakeholders in a non-partisan manner.

The NEC should engage LISGIS to develop a framework on how census data will be used for the reapportioning of constituencies and the international development partners supporting the conduct of the 2023 elections should regularly meet with political parties, the NEC, and CSOs on formulating scenarios that have the potential to undermine the electoral process and how they can be mitigated.

Naymote calls on political parties to limit the political-military, support women’s candidates, and provide political leadership and campaign management training for young people who are active in politics to mitigate electoral violence, strengthen issues-based campaigns, and improve outcomes.

Support political parties to train and deploy party agents during crucial stages of the electoral process such as voter registration, voting, counting, and tallying.  A plausible theory of change could be: If political parties and candidates are aware of the various technical processes during the election, such as voting, counting, and dispute resolution, they are likely to utilize them more effectively and avoid violence during the election.  Strengthen the capacity of integrity institutions and allow them to independently and timely deal with any transparency, accountability, and integrity issues that may arise from the different activities and processes related to the Elections administration.

There were overwhelming diplomatic statements of support for Liberia’s peace and security towards the 2023 elections but Liberia has a huge responsibility to conduct free, fair, transparent, and credible elections in line with international standards and adherence to the electoral legal framework and rule of law. These statements of support were made by the Chair and members of the Peacebuilding Commission in New York.

The Ambassadorial level meeting was chaired by Her Excellency Ms. Anna Karin Enestrom, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission on Liberia, speakers included Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Internal Affairs, of the Republic of Liberia, Co-Chairperson of the National Elections Commission, and United Nations, Resident Coordinator, Mr. Niels Scott.

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