By: Anthony Q. Jiffan, Jr.
MONROVIA – The Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) is calling on the Ministry of Justice to properly investigate individuals who were arrested for alleged double registration during phase-one of the Biometric Voter Registration (BNV) exercise in the country.
“The Ministry of Justice should ensure that ongoing investigations into electoral offenses are properly conducted and completed and the outcomes made available to the public [so as] to also hold perpetrators accountable” Malcom Joseph, a spokesman of the group, averred.
He said the ECC believes that the investigation and prosecution of individuals found guilty of double registration will deter others wanting to do the same.
The National Elections Commission (NEC), at a press conference recently, indicated that several persons were arrested and turned over to the Ministry of Justice for investigation and subsequent prosecution.
Giving this revelation, the ECC also called on the Liberia National Police and other security agencies to increase the presence of uniformed security personnel across registration centers in phase two counties to help enforce the law.
These recommendations among other things were contained in a release read by Malcom Joseph, a board member of the ECC on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 at its headquarters in Sinkor, Monrovia.
The ECC spokesperson, Mr. Joseph added that the recommendations to NEC and other institutions came as a result of what the ECC observers recorded as challenges experienced from the six counties covered by phase- one of the BVR process.
The ECC recommended that NEC increase the time for the BVR by two weeks for counties with density of voter populations such as Nimba, Bong and Lofa.
“The NEC should adopt a definite contingency plan to immediately address any possible equipment failure or malfunction during phase-two, considering that the counties in phase- two are remotely situated,” the spokesman indicated
The Elections Coordinating Committee noted that the process was generally well conducted; notwithstanding, the body through its spokesman pointed out that there were some challenges that occasioned the initial phase of the exercise.
The Elections Coordinating Committee has deployed 43 trained observers across the six counties and 36 electoral districts to observe phase-one of the 2023 biometric voter registration exercise that took place from March 20 to April 9, according to Mr. Joseph.
Joseph said a total of twelve critical incidents were reported by observers of the Elections Coordinating Committee during phase-one of voter registration, which include Malfunctioning of BVR equipment due to overheating of the computers, solar panels or card printers, shortages in materials, such as ink and cards at voter registration centers which resulted in delay of the BVR process or closure of some centers for the entire work day.
Other cases for instance, were voters’ trucking by aspirants notably in three counties, Margibi, Montserrado and Grand Bassa, primarily targeting first-time voters, isolated instances of violence and intimidation carried out in Montserrado electoral District #10 and Grand Cape Mount-electoral District #1 among others.
Meanwhile, the ECC commends the National Elections Commission (NEC) for releasing preliminary registration figures disaggregated by county, and furthered that data resulting from the process shows that the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Unity Party (UP) had the highest number of deployed agents followed by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and others.
Joseph however noted that all county coordinators reported that there was no hearing held at any of the Magistrates’ offices throughout the period of phase one, adding that the recommendations are intended to improve phase two of the BVR in the remaining nine counties.
The NEC conducts debriefing and adequate supervision of staff to evenly apply registration procedures during the conduct of the process, the ECC further observed, adding that NEC should also make public preliminary registration figures disaggregated by electoral districts.
The Elections Coordinating Committee is the conglomeration of the election observatory network with diverse competencies, experiences, and expertise in democracy, elections, and governance. It was established in 2010.
The ECC’s members include the Center for Democratic Governance (CDG); Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP); Center for Conflict Prevention and Peace building (CECPAP); Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD); Naymote Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-PADD); West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP), and the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL).
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