Zwedru – Liberians in Grand Gedeh County have made a resounding request for the change of the country’s elections date and timeline.
The citizens suggested that a change from the constitutional second Tuesday in October to an unspecified date they have suggested between December and March of each election year.
“Look my fellow Grand Gedeans and Liberians, reflect and compared the numbers of registered voters and see the turn out during elections day, the registered voters can be more than the electorates on the voting day, even though it can be caused by death, illnesses, and migration but rain and deplorable roads lead to their staying home according to my study.” – Madam Betty Gaye, Grand Gedeh County Rural Women Vice President.
They also called for a matching timeline to subsequently allow inauguration to be held without Constitutional conflict.
The suggestions were made at two community media forums held in Zwedru and Toe Town organized by the Liberia Media Development Initiative (LMDI). The forums, which brought together youth, women and local leaders, focused on election reforms.
The forums are part of the Citizens in Liberia Engaged to Advance Electoral Reform or CLEAR project as part of the Liberia Media Development program implemented by Internews with funding from USAID.
At the CMFs Liberians expressed their views on several electoral reform issues and made suggestions for the change of date as well.
Liberia’s 1986 Constitution requires that elections are held on the second Tuesday in October of an election year.
With October being a rainy month and the fast encroaching effects of climate change, people in the Southeast county say this will further compound the situation for people who live in hard-to-reach areas.
This means in October all electoral activities including campaigning and the movement of elections materials and personnel take place during the rainy season, thus posing huge challenges to the conduct of elections.
Speaking at the Zwedru CMF, Madam Betty Gaye, Grand Gedeh County Rural Women Vice President, said the date and timeline the Constitution provides is the cause of low turnout of electorates. She said some people are unable to get to the polling place due to bad roads.
“Look my fellow Grand Gedeans and Liberians, reflect and compared the numbers of registered voters and see the turn out during elections day, the registered voters can be more than the electorates on the voting day, even though it can be caused by death, illnesses, and migration but rain and deplorable roads lead to their staying home according to my study,” Madam Gaye said.
She added that staying home from voting causes the majority to elect someone who is not of the people’s choice.
At the same time, Grand Gedeh County NEC Logistics officer Alfred Dunner, confirmed that many voters have often complained about the challenges they endure during the rainy season.
Meanwhile, people attending the forum also expressed concerns about NEC having an adjudicatory mandate over elections disputes.
The citizens recommended the establishment of a separate court to do adjudication of elections conflicts and other related cases.
Mr. Albert Doe, a member of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Grand Gedeh chapter in Toe Town B’hai District, argued that establishing a separate tribunal to look into election matters will help reduce the responsibilities of the NEC by limiting their mandate to only the conduct of elections.
He alleged that in past elections conducted in Grand Gedeh County, aggrieved candidates complained to the local office of the NEC about alleged fraud and other violations but these issues were never addressed properly because, according to him, “NEC has more power over the people during elections”.
Also speaking, a principal Chebo Toe of the Toe Memorial Institute said he supports the setting up of a separate court to look into election conflicts instead of NEC playing a dual role.
Report By: Ben T. C Brooks In Grand Gedeh County