LCC, CAPDOG Raise Red Flags on 2023 Elections -Says Citizens Worried Over SC, NEC Credibility

MONROVIA: With the upcoming Presidential and Legislative elections being the first since 1996 to be held exclusively under the security protection of the Liberian Government, the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) and the Center for the Advancement of Participatory Democracy and Open Governance (CAPDOG) are concerned about the prolonged and continuing patterns of dissatisfaction and concerns of fears, to a large extent from opposition political parties and, intimately, from citizens, partners, and friends on the credibility of the NEC and the Supreme Court.

“These prolonged, interminable, and wavering patterns of dissatisfaction and concerns relate to the credibility of key highlighted NEC officials and speculations of partisan staff that have been recruited and trained.  The LCC and CAPDOG see these as very critical to credible and peaceful elections in Liberia.   We view these now as triggers that, if not address strategically and supported nationally, could erode Liberia’s long-gained peace,” the two civil society organizations said in a joint press release issued on Wednesday, July 11, 2023 under the signatures of LCC General Secretary Rev. Christopher Wleh Toe, I, and Mr. Domah B. Cooper, Jr., Executive Director of CAPDOG.

Speaking on the issue of electoral violence and implementation of the Minimum 30% Gender Quota Memorandum of Understanding reached at the Farmington River Declaration, the two civil society organizations said, while they commend the NEC and key political parties for significant efforts made by signing the revised Farmington’s Declaration, the Violence Against Women In Elections and the Minimum 30% Gender Quota MoUs, it is observed that lately, just in the midst of the candidates filling or nomination period the NEC decided to hold a strategic dialogue with political parties on the implementation of the Minimum 30% Gender Quota MoU.

“There seems to be no real efforts evidenced by the NEC to ensure that these agreements are adhered to by parties that signed them.  We urge NEC to remain vigilant on this matter.

“At the beginning of the candidate filing of nomination period, the NEC should have commenced the evoking of the signed MoU on the at least 30 percent gender quota. We observed that at the beginning of candidate nomination period and within the opening of the process’s remark by the Chair of the NEC, there appeared to be no engagement with political parties or reminding them of their commitments to upholding the 30% male or female gender quota. As of yet, the NEC has not posted the notarized copy on its website. Neither has the NEC served political parties that signed the MoU their notarized copies.  We will continue engaging further with the appropriate NEC authority on this matter, as well as with political parties to adhere to the MoU they signed. We, however, thank the NEC and political parties for the 4 July strategic dialogue on the Minimum 30% Gender Quota MoU and anticipate the NEC’s acceptance of political party’s nomination lists to be first based on the MoU they signed.”

The two organizations furthered that, while observing the gaps that the final closure of the peacekeeping mission on 30 June 2018 left in terms of adequate resources, capacities, and expertise in consolidating peacebuilding gains, there have however been some serious efforts and tangible results from the United Nations in supporting peace consolidation, human rights, the rule of law, reconciliation, and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Liberia.

“The UN Women, in particular, has made incredible efforts in partnership with the NEC to promote women’s participation and protection in elections, politics, and public lives by engaging political parties voluntarily signing the Violence Against Women in Election (VAWIE) MoU, the MoU of the at least 30 percent gender quota for senior political party leadership and candidate listings in elections, and set up of a Gender and Elections Coordinating Groups in each of the fifteen counties of Liberia. The NEC was again successful in signing the revised Farmington River Declaration in March 2023.

“Although there have been real efforts over the past few years, there are still remaining risk factors, such as pre-electoral and post-electoral violence, including targeted violence against women candidates and voters. There is a growing concern about whether or not the MoU on the Minimum 30 percent gender quota signed by political parties on a voluntary basis will be upheld by them,” the two civil society groups said.

LCC and CAPDOG further said they noticed that the Gender and Elections Coordinating Groups set up by the NEC in each of the fifteen counties of Liberia to formulate measures that would effectively bring about women’s participation both as electorate and candidates during the 2017 Elections are not functional.

“We are calling on the Gender Department of the NEC to reactivate them as quickly as possible to train them and work with them to monitor VAWIE across Liberia for the 2023 elections.

“We avail ourselves of constructive partnership with the NEC and the Supreme Court so as to ensure credibility and confidence in the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections, generating trust in political parties, candidates, and voters over the conduct of electoral processes and complaint proceedings.

“We finally call on all individual and collective support for our efforts to sustain Liberia’s long-gained peace through the conduct of gender-sensitive, credible, and peaceful 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections. We thank you all for your interest and attention. A happy and pleasant July 26 to ALL.”

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