Stop the Pre-Election Campaign
LAST YEAR THE National Election Commission (NEC) released the revised electoral timetable for every component of the 2023 General elections to factor in the lost time occasioned by the protracted period in selecting the preferred bidder for the Biometric Voters Registration exercise which is key to the holding of a free, fair and transparent election.
THE INTENT OF the publication was to enable the stakeholders, including the government, development partners, political parties and the citizens in general to be aware of the new development and to guide them through the process in their preparation and participation, as well as to avoid any of the political parties and candidates violating the ground rules set forth in the electoral laws of the country.
KEY AMONG THE new arrangement was the timeline for the commencement of the election campaign which is scheduled to hold between August 5 and end on October 8, 2023. It is expected to be the last lap of the entire process leading to the casting of the ballot on October 10, 2023.
AS LOFTY AS the schedule is in line with conducting a hitch-free election that will reflect the wishes of the people, it is unfortunate that massive pre-election campaigns have commenced by political actors, which is indeed an open violation of the elections law of Liberia. Among those who are far ahead in this flagrant disobedience of the laws are politicians drawn from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), which just did its re-nomination program to petition its Standard Bearer, President George Manneh Weah, to re-contest the 2023 presidential election.
WE BELIEVE THIS is concerning as it will negatively impact the electoral process. Our concern is more amplified by the fact that the government through the President and some of his close lieutenants have severally made a commitment to the international community and the citizens that it will deliver an election that will command the respect and acceptance from the public.
FROM VIRTUALLY EVERY street corner turned to in Monrovia there are giant-sized photographs and portraits of President Weah announcing his candidature with lists of achievements he recorded in his first tenure, using them as the basis to seek re-election. Besides, there are other promotional events and activities being carried out by his supporters, especially those seeking elections under the banner of the CDC.
OUR OBSERVATION IS not in any way intended to exclude the opposition parties or actors from the open pre-election campaigns going on in the country. One way or the other they are also in violation but we are looking at the magnitude this whole distraction is being carried out especially the government that should be in the vanguard to propagate the full adherence to the guidelines of the election that will be organized under its watch for which it has repeatedly assured the international community and citizens that it stands by its policy to hold a genuine free, fair and transparent election.
WE HEREBY CONDEMN this act and call on the government to retrace her steps by fulfilling all the promises made with respect to the ensuing general election. We want to remind them as beneficiaries of a similar process that brought them to power in 2017 where a sitting government lost the election they (CDC) won because of the enabling environment provided them to make the feat possible.
HAVING ENJOYED FROM such benefit in the past, it is incumbent upon the government to reciprocate the gesture by totally sticking to observing every phase of the timetable and avoid leapfrogging the process for an undue advantage using the power of incumbency. Campaigning far ahead of others when the voter registration has not even started goes beyond just having an undue advantage but a calculated attempt to derail the entire process which is a recipe for chaos that would undermine the election that Liberians have been patiently waiting for to cast their votes.
IN SIMILAR VEIN, we also want to caution the opposition community, represented by all the political parties and actors seeking to wrestle power from the ruling establishment to kindly observe the election timetable and comply with every detail of the guidelines. They need to understand that even an iota of violation of the electoral laws has the possible greatest propensity to destroy what has been put in place to conduct the election. They too have the responsibility to make sure that the process works for the benefit of the country and its people.
WE DEEM IT necessary to also urge NEC to step up its regulatory role in the process and firmly exert its authority that it is in charge of the decisive election where the stakes are high. Conducting an election and announcing results at the end of the contest is not only the duty of the electoral umpire but also ensuring that the process leading to the election and the announcement of the results is seen to be free, fair and transparent.
HOW WELL IT wants people to see her as independent without any external manipulation from the government will be seen from how well it carries out its functions, duty and authority ascribed to it by the constitution and laws of Liberia. If at this stage the National Elections Commission cannot bring violators to book or punish or take any decisive action against any violator(s) of our electoral laws, then it will cast doubt in the minds of the people about NEC’s ability to deliver on its legal mandate.
THE ELECTION IS fast approaching, and as everyone continues praying and being hopeful of holding the exercise peacefully and getting the desired results to the best expectation of the people, it is important that everyone should rally around the process to ensure that no distraction steps in to undermine it. We must all act and act well for the sake of the country and its people.