NEC’s Eroded Credibility, Transparency And Independence

History is never satisfied with kickback to camouflage developments concocted to endanger the peaceful space of coerced people at the mercy of those who are overly intoxicated with the toxin of greed for power; so much so that they stand to do anything viciously nefarious to get their way through no matter what happens grotesquely to the nation and people.

This nation and people have had enough of imposed calamity and unacceptable nightmare emanating from the reckless way, manner, form and style elections were conducted to appease an individual and by extension, the power of the day.

sThis wound from such history still remains deeply painful any time someone ventures to carry out activities that will trigger the horror and terror of elections barbarism.

At the same time, and as a consequence, the November 12, 1985 attempted coup led by the late General Thomas G. Quiwonkpa occurred. The Quiwonkpa’s rebellion resulted in the death of more than four hundred Liberians and was the prelude to Charles Taylor’s rebellion of 24 December 24, 1989 from which Liberia is yet to fully recover.

With the help of the International community led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the prevailing fragile peace in Liberia was established following the death of numerous West African Peace Keepers who paid the ultimate price in the cause of saving Liberians from themselves; wherein over 250,000 defenseless people died.

Moreover, more than six billion United States Dollars was reportedly expended by the International Community to extinguish a fire that Liberians, to a large degree, ignited themselves.

Now with the badly, poorly and rapidly eroding credibility, transparency and independence of the National Elections Commission (NEC) messing up its mandate again only to appease the masters  as the nation  and people are gearing up for the 2023 general and presidential elections; it is very sad that history is about to repeat itself. Again, NEC, this time around, under the leadership of Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, has been conducting itself in a questionable and non-credible manner that glaringly undermines its independence.

At a news conference held Tuesday, May 4, 2022 in Paynesville, the Director General of Center For Development and Election Management (CEDEM), Mr. James M. FromayanT noted that the unilateral decision by the NEC to conduct a mobile voter update exercise prior to the conduct of the 2020 Special Senatorial Election, a situation that could culminate in fraudulent Election results, if the ECOWAS DATA MANAGEMENT TEAM had not intervened to salvage the Final Registration Roll (FRR) is a case in point.

CEDEM’s Director General, Mr. Fromayan also pointed out that additionally, the Commission’s acquiescence in the non-certification of former Defense Minister J. Brownie Samukai who decisively won the 2020 Senatorial Election in Lofa County, is another case worthy of emphasis. Having filed an application at the NEC as a Senatorial Aspirant for Lofa County consistent with Section 4.5(2) of the  29 September 1986 New Elections Law, the NEC scrutinized and qualified Mr. Samukai as a candidate in accordance with Section 2.9(n) of the September 29,1986 New Elections Law.

Moreover, Mr. Fromayan, a former Commissioner and   head of NEC indicated that the Commission proceeded to conduct the Special Senatorial Election across Liberia, an election, as announced by the NEC, that Mr. Samukai undisputedly won in Lofa County; for the NEC to abandon Mr. Samukai, and subsequently failed to certify his election because of a legal challenge that should have been prior to and not after the election, seriously eroded the credibility, transparency, and independence of the National Elections Commission.

According to him, that colossal failure by the Commission made a large segment of Liberia’s population to perceive the National Elections Commission (NEC) as an extension of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

“Rather than embarking on serious efforts to rebuild its credibility, the National Elections Commission has by its recent actions created more doubts relating to its resolve, impartiality, and competence to conduct in a free, fair, and credible manner, the very crucial Presidential and Legislative Elections of 2023”.

Fromayan observes that the recent ruling made by the  NEC in the case brought by the  Musa Bility’s faction of the Liberty Party (LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) against the All Liberian Party (ALP) and the Unity Party (UP) relating to withdrawal from the CPP generated more questions than answers.

It was a decision enveloped by ambiguity devoid of clarity. The NEC Junior Hearing officer, Atty. Fomba Swaray ruled that the NEC lacks jurisdiction to provide an answer to the question as to whether one can associate fully with others or refuse to associate with Political Parties, trade unions, and other organizations in accordance with Article 17, under Fundamental Rights, of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, CEDEM Director General Fromayan entoned.

He further indicated that the Supreme Court of Liberia is the sole authority to answer said question. But surprisingly, Atty. Swaray, having conceded NEC’s lack of Jurisdiction over a Constitutional matter, complicated and created ambiguity by concluding that no further action would be taken relating to UP participation in the Lofa County By-Election pending a decision by the Supreme Court.  He said, by that action, Atty. Swaray assumed jurisdiction of a case in which he earlier indicated that his entity lacks jurisdiction, and in accordance with international best practice, the Elections Management Body (EMB) would refer the plaintiff to the Authority that has jurisdiction in such matter and proceeds with the execution of its mandate until prohibited by the Authority that has said jurisdiction.

He said, the Commission’s failure to maintain consistency with its earlier admission of lack of jurisdiction has made a significant percentage of Liberians to perceive the NEC as a party to the conflict.

According to him, the National Elections Commission (NEC) is not an archive where documents belonging to Political Parties and Independent Candidates are to be filed and kept. Rather, the Commission is the Agency responsible to conduct all Public Elections throughout the Republic of Liberia in accordance with Section 2.9 of the 1986 New Elections Law. A

Also, he narrated that the Commission has the authority to regulate the activities of Political Parties and independent candidates.  As such, documentation submitted to the Commission by Political Parties and Independent Candidates must be thoroughly scrutinized by the Commission to ensure that all provisions are fully in conformity or consistent with the Constitution of Liberia.

“If the Commission had meticulously done its job, the current confusion relating to the Framework Document of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) would have been avoided. In effect, there could be no contention relating to the alteration of any provision of the said CPP Framework document be its original or photocopy that was submitted to the National Elections Commission (NEC).”

He added, ”had the NEC not neglected its duties, Section 8.5 of the CPP Framework Document would have been ordered corrected by the NEC prior to the accreditation of the CPP as a coalition or collaboration. Said directive by the NEC could have been fully justified because the said section 8.5 of the CPP Framework Document is inconsistent with Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia. The failure of the NEC to fully discharge its duties is a cardinal part of the crisis that has balkanized the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP)”.

-Writes GDJ

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