“Critical Test for Liberian Democracy” -USAID Mission Director Terms 2023 Elections -As USAID Empowers ECC to Monitor Crucial Elections

By Stephen G. Fellajuah 

MONROVIA – USAID Mission Director Jim Wright says the upcoming October 10 presidential and legislative elections represents a critical test for Liberian democracy, as it is the first since the end of the Liberian civil war that Liberia will independently lead the entire election cycle from voter registration to actual voting, and counting of ballots.

He made the assertion Friday, March 17, when he made special remarks at the launch of the Liberia Independent Domestic Elections Observation (LIDEO) held at the Boulevard Palace in Monrovia. LIDEO is a partnership program of the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Successful elections in October will help Liberia build on its hard-won post-war democracy. It is important therefore that the entire process strictly adheres to the applicable guidelines and rules, which are fairly enforced. This is the best way to engender public confidence in the election results”, Director Wright stressed. 

According to him, what the ECC will be doing is very important, because election observation provides a valuable tool for improving the quality of elections. It can expose problems that can be solved even while elections are ongoing, ensure adherence to the ground rules, deter wrongdoing, and build public trust in the integrity of the electoral process, Wright asserted.

He emphasized that the US government has no doubt that the ECC will draw on its vast election observation experience to fairly observe the election in October so that its reports and recommendations can enjoy the full confidence and support of the Liberian people.

“The ECC is very qualified to lead the implementation of our election observation project. Since its founding in 2010, the ECC has worked to promote democratic governance in Liberia and built a strong network among donors and civil society organizations.  Among ECC’s values is its commitment to ensuring a fair electoral process and making objective, evidence-based judgement about the conduct of elections.

“Our partnership with the ECC breaks new ground. Never before have we partnered directly with a local organization to implement a project of this scale and scope in Liberia. This partnership is a product of USAID’s new localization initiative. Put simply, this initiative recognizes that we need to intentionally integrate the invaluable insights of local partners into our work”, he explained further.

“The development results we produce are therefore likely to be more effective, more resilient, and more equitable when local partners play a lead role in planning our programs, implementing projects, and evaluating progress”, Mr. Wright said.

Earlier, the Chairperson of the ECC Cllr. Oscar Bloh said his institution was pleased to partner with USAID under the project: “The Liberia Domestic Elections Observation (LIDEO), which he noted is a Fixed Amount Award from February 28, 2023 – August 28, 2025 and is valued at 1,466,745 United States Dollars. 

The overarching goal of the project, according to Chairperson Bloh, is to enhance voter confidence in the electoral processes and results, to the extent warranted, and to mitigate electoral violence and tension, through evidence-based, responsive election observation reporting to the public. This goal is aligned with the ECC’s mission which is to contribute towards transparent, accountable, credible, and sustainable democratic processes in Liberia. 

In pursuit of its stated goal, the project aims to increase transparency and strengthen public confidence — to the extent warranted — in the 2023 voter roll and election process, including results; and to promote strengthening of Liberia’s electoral practices and legal framework. 

In the implementation of activities, the project will adopt a three-pronged approach: The first approach is to increase citizens’ confidence in the electoral process and its outcome through the observation of the various components of the electoral cycle and releasing timely information to the public on the findings. 

The second approach is stakeholders’ engagements which include establishing and maintaining strategic relationships with diverse stakeholders including NEC, political parties, security sector and the media. These engagements, he pointed out, are intended to share information, collective problem-solving and to harness the efforts of all stakeholders to contribute to a free, fair and credible election. 

The third approach is electoral reforms advocacy which will include consultations with stakeholders on reforms that need to take place based on their experience of participating in the 2023 elections as well as the outcomes of the ECC’s observation efforts. 

Mr. Bloh added that the ECC will deploy 92 Long Term Observers (LTOs) which includes 19 County Coordinators and 73 electoral Districts Supervisors. In addition to the LTOs, the ECC will deploy 1,200 Short Term Observers on Election Day. 

According to him, ECC has outlined the following key activities to achieve the strategic objectives outlined, to include establishing ECC Data Center ECC that will use the Apollo Database Management System to allow observers transmit real-time observation data through SMS, using coded texts which will be collated and analyzed to produce updates/ reports. 

The second aspect of the project activities will include observation of the Biometric Voter Registration Exercise and the Exhibition including claims and objections; observation of the primaries of political parties; observation of the campaign to ensure that political parties and independent candidates are in compliance with the laws and regulations; observation of the election day; observation of the adjudication of electoral petitions; compilation of comprehensive technical observation report; and Electoral Reforms Advocacy. 

In concluding, Cllr. Bloh said the ECC values the partnership with USAID and extends heartfelt appreciation to the American People for their continuous support to civil society organizations such as the ECC, to enable them provide an independent view and assessment on the credibility of the conduct of elections in Liberia.

“This helps to sustain and consolidate Liberia’s democratic gains and to improve the quality of our democracy. We will work in close collaboration with international observation groups such as the Electoral Institute of South Africa (EISA), and national observation groups such as the Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON). 

“We are proud of the trust reposed in us as a partner and we can assure USAID and the taxpayers of America that the resources provided to the ECC will be managed and used in an effective, efficient, professional and transparent manner,” Bloh assured.

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