BFF Calls For Mass Turnout For Lofa By-election -Challenges NEC, GOL To Ensure Embracing Polling Centers For All

MONROVIA – The Better Future Foundation (BFF), has called on electorates and all stakeholders to massively turnout on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, and exercise their democratic franchise in the Lofa County senatorial byelections consistent with the guidelines and regulations of the National Elections Commission (NEC).

BFF, in the same vain, challenged the NEC which is the statutory elections regulating body and particularly the Government, to ensure that the atmosphere at all polling centers across the county are friendly, embracing, and free of violence and any form of intimidation.

In a statement issued over the weekend in Monrovia, BFF President Augustine Arkoi, said Liberians, particularly the people of Lofa County, now have the opportunity to correct the constitutional violation impasse sadly created by the prolonged under-representation of Lofa County, which is one of the major political sub-divisions of the country, in the Senate, the Upper House of the bicameral Legislature, since 8 December 2020.

Rev. Arkoi made specific reference to Article 37 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which states that:In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof. The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections.”

While lauding the National Elections Commission (NEC) for its recent launch of Voters and Civic Education program in Lofa County, BFF underscored the need for the Commission to promptly investigate any claims of electoral violence and irregularities that may emerge from the polls and take appropriate corrective measures aimed at ensuring that the outcome of the June 28 by-election meets acceptable international standard.

According to the BFF, Liberia, as a country, must begin to employ the necessary mechanisms to ensure that national elections meet the minimum acceptable global benchmarks and standards including fairness, credibility and transparency so as to minimize the rising waves of protests by political parties and independent candidates over poll outcomes and alleged irregularities.

BFF further asserted that mitigating electoral challenges requires the robust, deliberate and the requisite Political Will of the Liberian government to make timely and adequate budgetary appropriations and the provision of other necessary logistical and technical support, without which voters cannot make any informed decisions as it was demonstrated by the dismal outcome of the December 8, 2020 National Referendum.

The BFF statement also observed that violence, political reprisals, fraud, acute lack of civic and voters’ education, inadequate training of poll workers, among others, over the years were the major factors for electoral disputes in Liberia.

According to the civil society advocacy group, any disputes over the outcomes of elections are not only worrisome and troubling but also leaves much to be desired in the strengthening and consolidation of Liberia’s hard-won peace and fledgling democracy.

Reflecting on the conduct of other past elections, Mr. Arkoi pointed out that consistent protests by    NEC’s poll workers in demand of pay for professional services rendered the Commission, particularly during the conduct of the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Elections and two-representative by-elections could have been avoided were funding previously requested by NEC made available by the Liberian government.

The BFF statement, signed by its Secretariat, maintains that such public protests, which are often carried out by the aggrieved poll workers, are always tantamount to subtraction from NEC’s credibility and integrity, and as such, the Commission’s electioneering activities must be urgently recalibrated for the good of the Liberian nation.

The advocacy group, at the same time, cautioned contestants of various political parties and independent candidates to ensure their individual representations at all polling places and precincts geared towards enhancing transparency, credibility, and fairness of the Lofa polls and for defeated candidates to courageously and appropriately concede defeat.

According to BFF, “the credibility and validation of elections are largely dependent on defeated candidates’ ability and sincerity to concede by calling to congratulate officially declared winners as opposed to raising face-saving and unwarranted claims and protests to cause undue tension and acrimonies which have the potential to negatively impact the nation’s peace and security.

The statement asserted that BFF, in collaboration with other civil society and pro-democracy organizations (CSOs), particularly Partners for Democracy & Good Governance (PdG), is committed to supporting all processes aimed at ensuring the creation of the necessary conducive environment for free, fair, transparent and credible elections in the June 28 by-election in Lofa, as well as the crucial 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.

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