Parties, NEC Discuss Electoral Laws Reform
Several political parties and the National Election Commission (NEC) have brainstormed on constitutional reform, including the electoral laws of Liberia.
More than 20 political parties, including the Congress for Democratic Change; the governing Unity Party, National Patriotic Party, National Union for Democratic Progress, National Democratic Party of Liberia and the Liberty Party, among others attended a Political Consultative Forum at the headquarters of the National Election Commission (NEC) in Monrovia on Friday, July 20, 2012.
The discussions were focused on election laws reform, constitutional reform and political parties financing. Congress for Democratic Change Secretary General Nathaniel McGill said the forum was a continuation of consultations held two weeks ago at the headquarters of the CDC.
Speaking at the commencement of the ceremony, the Acting Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) Cllr. Elizabeth B. Nelson, hailed the consultation as critical in strengthening Liberia’s electoral democracy.
The NEC Chair pledged unflinching support to election reform efforts, stating that strong partnership across parties and civil society is needed to achieve and cement those critical reforms. The political forum highlighted the issue of presidential appointment of commissioners for the NEC to the exclusion of representation from political parties.
Also speaking at the forum, Cllr. Seymah Cephus frowned on the concentration of the functions of electoral adjudication under the NEC, calling for an electoral tribunal to be constituted in a body distinct and separate from the National Election Commission.
Adding his voice to the debate, the Secretary General of the National Democratic Coalition Abraham Mitchell, called for the formation of a committee on constitutional reform, pointing to nine articles in the Constitution of Liberia that need drastic reform.
Mitchell specifically highlighted the six and nine-year terms for the president, representatives and senators as being fraught with political consequences. Wilfred Bangura of the National Union for Democratic Progress (NUDP) discussed support for political parties on behalf of Senator John Whitfield of the NPP, who chairs the political parties funding committee.
Bangura said a party would have to attain at least 5% threshold in a presidential election or win a seat in the legislature to receive public funding. Both civil society and political parties in attendance agreed that political financing is needed but cautioned on the issue of accountability.
The parties called on the Government of Liberia to support the reform effort through the national budget. They noted that increased budgetary support to critical reform implementing agencies such as the Law Reform Commission (LRC), Governance Commission, and the NEC will significantly enhance these reform efforts.
The Steering Committee of the Political Consultative Forum meets next Saturday, July 28 to develop a comprehensive report for submission to the Government of Liberia and the International Community.