By Bill W. Cooper
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and several other stakeholders, including the National Elections Commission (NEC), have expressed their concern and disappointment over the absence of major political parties from NEC’s One-Day elections forum.
As the Commission gears up for the conduct of the October 10 Presidential and Legislative Elections, the absence of these key players from the One-Day Dialogue on 2023 General Elections Results Management System, sponsored by ECOWAS, further raises concerns about those parties’ quest for a free, fair, transparent, and violent free electoral process.
The One-Day 2023 General Elections Results Management System, organized by the NEC, with support from the ECOWAS, was intended to inform all elections stakeholders and drill them about the process leading to the sucessful conduct of the October 10 Polls.
But the conspicuous absence of these major political parties from the event, even though they were all served with a written communication each about the gathering, was further seen as a setback for the promotion of democratic principles and the fair conduct of elections.
Out of the 32 political parties, only 15 turned out or sent representatives for the dialogue, as notable parties like the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Unity Party (UP), Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), the Liberian People’s Party (LPP), and the Liberia National Union (LINU) were all absent from the program.
ECOWAS is a regional organization committed to fostering stability, peace, and economic development in West Africa, and it has also been actively involved in supporting democratic transitions and ensuring credible elections across the region.
Speaking at the start of the dialogue, the ECOWAS Resident Representative to Liberia, Josephine Nkrumah, said, “I am really disappointed because we were expecting to see that the kind of serious effort we put into these elections, would have been seen through the huge turnout of those major and other political parties contesting the presidential elections.”
“Because everywhere around the world, with Liberia of no exception, political parties play a crucial role in any democratic nation, and their absence from discussions could directly impact the electoral process, question their commitment to democratic values, and their willingness to engage in constructive dialogue,” she maintained.
Madam Nkrumah at the same encouraged those parties to take seriously all elections meetings, as called/organized by NEC for the betterment of the country, stating, “Again, we commend the NEC for the effort and energy exhibited to ensure that these elections are free, fair, and transparent, for the common good of Mama Liberia.”
“And let me on behalf of ECOWAS make this clear, when we talk about the integrity of the electoral process, it is not just all about the NEC, but it is also incumbent upon the political parties and every Liberian across the country, because citizens equally have a role to play, the media as well.
“So, I urge that even beyond today’s exercise, let us use it on various platforms to inform others, and if onyone of you has issues or doubts, please contact the NEC to ask critical questions and don’t wait to do it after or later, because it is key to ensuring a free electoral process,” she added.
Earlier, NEC Chairperson, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, had these few words: “This is the kind of situation we at the Commission normally face, and it is very frustrating to see political parties who are government in waiting behaving in such a manner.”
“And the worst thing about it, is the fact that all of political parties were served letter days before this gathering, but yet chose not to show up, without any respect for this Commission or the international partners, but again, we will continue to talk and do our best to ensure this process is free, fair, and transparent,” Browne-Lansanah said.
Speaking on behalf of those political parties that turned out for the dialogue, the National Chairman of the All Liberian Coalition Party (ALCOP), Ansu Dolley, criticized his colleagues for not showing up for the meeting, pledging their commitment for a free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, the NEC says following the arrival of the ballots on September 25, 2023, the deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections began on September 28, 2023.
The materials being deployed, according to an NEC release, include ballot papers, ballot boxes, tactile ballot guides, indelible ink, and precinct kits containing assorted stationery for Election Day operations.
The release added that because of the road condition, the deployment of the materials began with the South Eastern counties via sea transportation means, using commercial vessels, and the process continues with other counties.
“There is absolutely no air transportation being used by the Commission to deploy election materials. The materials are being carried by NEC staff with security escort from the Liberia National Police,” the Commission release added.