Officials of Liberia’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) and Police authorities have assured ECOWAS Long-Term Observers of their commitment to successful presidential and parliamentary elections in the country on 10th October 2017.
At a meeting with the regional poll observers in Monrovia on 20th September, which was also attended by African Ambassadors and the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Crime Services Department Simeon Frank, NEC Chairman, Jerome Korkoya said the Commission had taken necessary measures to deliver a successful election.
During the meeting, coordinated by the ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde Ajisomo, with other NEC Commissioners in attendance, the election observers listened to a presentation on the Commission’s preparations, covering voter registration, deployment of poll personnel and materials, voting procedure and result management.
While thanking ECOWAS, AU, UN and other development partners for their continued support, Chairman Korkoya said the Commission had taken steps to address challenges associated with organising an election in a post-conflict environment, especially in relation to funding and logistics.
Deputy IGP Frank restated the commitment of the Liberia National Police to ensure adequate security and professional policing for a peaceful election, including the launch of “Yes to Peace and No to Violence” campaign. He appealed for public support and the cooperation of all stakeholders, particularly political parties, politicians and their supporters.
While apprising the observers with an overview of Liberia’s political landscape and electoral context, Ambassador Ajisomo described the October vote as “a critical and a defining moment in Liberia’s political history.”
Liberia, Africa’s oldest Republic founded by freed slaves from America in 1847, has endured a turbulent and chequered political history, including a bloody civil war for more than a decade from 1989.
According the ECOWAS envoy, it would be the first post-conflict election in Liberia without the supervision of the UN Mission, UNMIL, which has been maintaining peace in the country for the past 14 years; as the first election for the transition of power from an elected government to another.
Apart from the civil war, he said Liberia has also experienced other “shocks” notably the 2014 Ebola virus pandemic and the steep fall in the prices of commodities, such as iron ore and rubber, the mainstay of the national economy.
Echoing Ambassador Ajisomo’s sentiments, Guinean Ambassador El Hadj Abdoulaye Dore, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and the African Union envoys in Liberia, expressed the hope that the electoral process should go well, to demonstrate the country’s political maturity and democratic consolidation in the ECOWAS region and the continent at large.
In continuation of their pre-deployment consultations, the ECOWAS observers also met with officials Liberia’s National Civil Society Council (NCSC), which apprised them with their engagements with other stakeholders.
The NCSC chair Frances Greaves and her colleagues shared their concerns, especially in relation to alleged “buying of voter registration cards by some political parties,” and inaccessibility of the hinterland due to bad roads, but expressed optimism that the elections would go well.
Seventeen of the country’s 26 registered political parties and three independent candidates are vying for the presidency and vice presidency, while more than 960 candidates are contesting for the 73 parliamentary seats at stake in the October vote.
Of Liberia’s estimated population of 4.5 million across 15 administrative Counties, the NEC registered about 2.18 million voters in the ratio of 51% men and 49% women, for the polls.
Out-going President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Nobel Laureate and Africa’s first democratically elected woman president, is constitutionally ineligible for re-election, after two terms from 2005.