By Bill W. Cooper
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) says the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) misused the country’s funds, buildings, and vehicles for election campaign throughout the general elections.
The EU EOM, deployed in the country to observe the electoral process, also said the misuse of State resources by the CDC granted them an unfair advantage over their competitor (Unity Party), thereby distorting the democratic process.
Accordingly, the team also lamented that the misuse not only violates ethical and legal standards, but also undermines the democratic principles of a level playing field for all political parties.
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) arrived in Liberia with the mandate to assess and monitor the fairness and transparency of the country’s electoral process.
Since their deployment, the observers have been diligently monitoring the activities of various political parties, including the ruling CDC of President George Weah and Unity Party (UP) of former Vice President Joseph Boakai.
The team also claimed that the CDC’s utilization of national resources for campaign purposes further violates the principles of democratic governance and undermines the level playing field for all political parties in the country.
In its preliminary report on the country’s electoral process issued yesterday in Monrovia, the EU EOM maintained, “During our observation, the lack of enforcement of campaign finance regulations continued to fail to ensure transparency and a level playing field.”
“The EU EOM also directly observed the use of State resources by the incumbent, in terms of government and local government staff campaigning during working hours, and the use of government buildings and vehicles,” the report stated.
According to the team, even though the UP’s campaign activities were less visible than its opponent’s, tea CDC had significantly more financial resources than the UP, as in some instances, government institutions were actively involved in the campaign.
The team explained that shortly before the run-off, the government announced financial support schemes to the rural development communities in Grand Bassa and Bong counties, noting that these announcements were tied to the electoral process.
The EU EOM further asserted, “So, the use of State resources, contestants’ unequal financial resources, combined with a lack of oversight of campaign finance regulations by the NEC, created an unlevel playing field.”
Meanwhile, the team said despite the fact that media freedoms were generally respected during the entire campaign period of the elections, the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) continued to give leveraged media coverage to the government than UP.
This, the team noted, “EU EOM media monitoring showed that LBS channels continued to offer most of their news coverage to the government and the ruling party, which impacted on voter’s ability to make an informed choice.”
“Mistrust in State-owned media among opposition parties remained high. On TV channel LNTV and radio ELBC, 84 and 70 percent respectively of the time allocated to political parties, only went to CDC, thus leaving UP and others to rely on other media outlets for communication with their supporters,” the report added.
The team furthered that the UP, from the first round to the run-off, received just under five percent of airtime on LNTV during prime-time hours, disclosing that voter education, including by NEC, was largely absent during the run-off.
The EU EOM observers also accused Truth FM, which they said offered most of its political and election-related time to the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) in the first round of shifting its attention to the CDC (47 percent), while UP received 18 percent of its content dedicated to political parties, but said OK FM and Prime FM were fair.