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3 Major Political Parties Get NEC Fine For Pre-Campaigning, But…

By Bill W. Cooper

The National Elections Commission (NEC) has imposed a fine of US$5000 on three major political parties, namely, the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Unity Party (UP), and Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), for their alleged involvement in pre-campaign activities.

However, the CPP has raised objections, challenging the NEC’s legal authority to impose such fines on political parties, as the case is now before the NEC’s hearing officer for adjudication.

The NEC, through its Legal Officer, Ignatius Wesseh, said the Commission’s decision to penalize the CDC, UP, and CPP, stems from their alleged involvement in early campaigning efforts, ahead of the official election campaign period.

Speaking Friday, July 21, 2023, during the signing of the Farmington River Declaration 2023 Addendum at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Mr. Wesseh noted that all political parties were warned to desist from activities that would be considered pre-campaigning and await the official campaign period.

He explained that having been mandated by the Commission’s Chairperson, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, to document all pre-campaign activities, his team was able to record 201 violators, of which 50 were from political parties across Liberia.

Wesseh noted, “As a result, we then invited the representatives from these political parties of which the CDC, UP and CPP representatives accepted their wrongdoing and apologized.”

“So, in line with our warning issued, the Commission went ahead and imposed the fine of US$5,000 on the CDC, UP and CPP, with the mandate that the said amount be paid within 48 hours and that all billboards, stickers and others pictures be taken down within 72 hours,” he said.

According to him, while the committee was in the process of validating other violators, the CPP then filed a complaint, challenging the Commission’s legal authority to impose fines on political parties and that said hearing is now ongoing at the Commission’s hearing office.

He asserted, “As a result, the process of investigating other alleged violators has been out on hold based on advice by our legal advisor to wait until the end of the hearing, at which time we then know our next move as a Commission.”

The CDC, UP, and CPP, being major political players in Liberia, have been accused of organizing public rallies, posting of aspirants’ pictures, and making political statements that directly promote their party’s agenda before the designated campaign period.

These actions, according to some Civil Society Organizations, including some prominent citizens, violate the regulations set forth by the country’s electoral body, (NEC).

Earlier, NEC Chairperson, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, in the strongest terms, condemned the actions of the various political parties, and stated that pre-campaigning undermines the fairness of the electoral process by providing certain parties an unfair advantage over others.

She argued that the setting of a clear start date for campaigning allows for equal opportunities for all participating political parties to engage with the electorate and as such, it is incumbent upon aspirants and political parties to abide by the Commission’s mandate.

The NEC Chairperson who described the act as “disrespectful and unacceptable”, also called on political parties and aspirants to be responsible, as they are all leaders in waiting.

Commenting on other issues, madam Browne-Lansanah also disclosed that a total of 1030 aspirants submitted nomination documents to the Commission during the nomination process and are awaiting qualification from NEC to be cleared as candidates.

Of this number, she said 159, constituting 15 percent, are females, while 871, constituting 85 percent, are males, adding that Independent aspirants account for 199, constituting 19 percent while aspirants for political parties/coalitions/alliances are 831, constituting 81 percent.

Madam Browne-Lansanah asserted that the final list of qualified candidates will be published on August 5, 2023 and which will also mark the official start of the campaign activities and is expected to run till October 8, 2023.

Meanwhile, in the midst of this controversy, the clock continues to tick, and the citizenry eagerly await the official start of the election campaign period, when political parties can freely present their platforms and engage with the electorate, ahead of the upcoming national elections.

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