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As the National Elections Commission (NEC) embarks on nationwide consultations to solicit inputs on electoral reforms, citizens of the western region of Liberia have made several recommendations on both the new elections law of 1986 and the constitution of Liberia.

The citizens called for increase in the application fees for aspirants for the House Representatives, Senate, and the Presidency. They also called for the amendment of the law on by-elections. Many of them said article 27 of the Liberia constitution, which talks about only “Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia”, should be maintained.

Election date, timeframe for post-election appeals, women’s representation, establishment of electoral districts or constituencies, guaranteeing the NEC’s funding, and ensuring an appropriate legal framework for voter registration were key among the issues deliberated on during the two-day consultations.

The recommendations were made in Tubmanburg, Bomi County where citizens were gathered from the four Counties of the western region: Bomi, Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, and Montserrado (rural) Counties in continuation of the nationwide consultation from July 23-24, 2019. The NEC is using the consultations as part of the electoral reform drive.

The consultations are bordering the general administration of NEC, voter registration, electoral justice, and constitutional issues for long term.

Following the 2017 presidential and Representative elections, both local and international observer groups, totaling 102, recommended for 144 legal electoral reforms. Of this amount, 107 recommendations came from Liberia observer groups. These recommendations were addressed to the NEC and the Executive and Legislature branches of government of Liberia. They were also made to the Liberian National Police (LNP) and stakeholders including political parties and civil society organizations.

Considering the importance of the recommendations and pursuant to 2.9 (c) of the New Elections Law, the Board of Commissioners of the NEC constituted a Technical Working Group (TWG), headed by the deputy Executive Director for Programs of NEC, Nathan Garbie. The mandate is to review the recommendations particularly directed at NEC to identify a “Reform Agenda” to undertake in the period 2019 – 2023.

The TWG considered 84 recommendations of the 144, accepted 59, declined 10 and decided to refer 15 to other institutions for their considerations. Of the 59, 32 can be actioned through adoption of regulation (without prior change in legislation) adoption of policy or though strengthening implementation strategy.

The remaining 27 of the 59 requires changes to the Legislation (statute) and Constitution of Liberia.

The Tubmanburg, Bomi County two-day electoral reform consultation brought together high profiled and relevant stakeholders including the Legislature, which led by the chairman on the House Committee on Elections and Inauguration, Representative Alex Grant. The Superintendent of Cape Mont and Bomi Counties attended the consultation, as well as, representatives from the Law Reform Commission, and the Justice Ministry.

In her opening statement, the co-chairperson of the Commission, Cllr. Sarah Toe, admonished the participants to attach seriousness to the process of reforming the elections law of Liberia. She said it is important for citizens to get fully involved since the law is meant for them. “I ask for your full participation, today and tomorrow, having consultations. I hope that the consultations will be fruitful for all of us”.

Making remarks, the Superintendent of Bomi County, Adama Robinson, said his citizens consider the reform process a serious undertaking having experienced the many election disputes arising from the 2017 elections. He lauded the Commission for allowing the people of Bomi and other Counties to participate in the reform process.

The consultation drive is expected to continue shortly in Buchanna, Grand Bassa County. This venue will involve citizens of host Bassa, Margibi, and Rivercess Counties. Another will bring together Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Sinoe, and Grand Kru Counties in Zwedru City. The last of the consultations will be held in Gbarnga involving Bong, Lofa, and Nimba Counties.

Upon completion of consultations, a draft proposal, after validation, will be submitted to the Legislature for enactment.

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