STATEMENT BY CLLR. ELIZABETH J. NELSON ACTING CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION
AT PROGRAM MARKING CONSULTATION WITH POLITICAL PARTIES, COALITIONS AND ALLIANCES ON ELECTORAL LAW REFORM
NEC CONFERENCE HALL
SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
My Fellow Commissioners,
Our International Partners,
(USAID, UNMIL, UNDP, IFES, EU, NDI, AU and ECOWAS)
Heads of Political Parties,
Members of Civil Society Organizations,
Members of the Press,
Staff of the Commission,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of my fellow Commissioners, I want to welcome each and every one of you to the Headquarters of the National Elections Commission and to this very important consultative conference. The Commission values your input into the ongoing Electoral Law Reform and looks forward to your active participation in the discussions that will unfold during the next two days.
Exactly six months and seventeen days ago, from February 23-25, 2012, we (NEC and all major stakeholders to the electoral process) gathered in these very halls to take stock of the 2011 electoral process in a conference tagged “Lessons Learned”. As the name depicts, the purpose of said conference was to document best practices and identify pitfalls during the conduct of the 2011 polls for correction. That conference marked the ushering in of the post-election activities of the Commission.
Under post-election activities, an Election Management Body like ours, sets out to do a number of things which include, taking stock of the previous election, setting priority for the remaining phase of the electoral cycle that culminates into the conduct of another general elections, building capacity, strengthening relations with stakeholders and reforming laws that do not conform to prevailing realities.
At the Lessons Learned Conference, one issue that stood out tall among many others was the need to reform some of the electoral laws. Most participants voiced out and pinpointed to laws that do not meet present realities. Guarded by these inputs, the NEC identified Electoral Law Reform in its evolving strategic plan as one of its key post electoral activities.
During the month of August, a team of NEC technicians headed by the Senior Legal Counsel of the Commission toured five of the fifteen counties to solicit views of the public about the reform process. The outcomes of those interactions were quite astonishing! Citizens of Liberia spoke out so profoundly on what they perceive as huddles in the Commission’s endeavor to institutionalize electoral democracy in Liberia.
The gathering here today of heads of political parties is another step by the Commission to reach out as far as possible in gathering views of stakeholders in the promulgation of laws that will govern the electoral process. Time and again, we at the NEC have underscored that the business of elections is only managed by us but the Liberian people are the true owners of the process.
In the unfolding months, the discussions will be widened even further. Meetings will be held with heads of women organizations, the Liberia National Bar Association, the media and many other groupings with the view of gathering inputs into the reform process. The outcome of all the discussions will inform the drafting of an Electoral Law Reform Bill that will be submitted to the National Legislature.
You will recall distinguished ladies and gentlemen, that Article 83(d) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia requires that each political party on September 1 of each year PUBLISH and SUBMIT to the Commission detailed statements of assets and liabilities. At the close of the day on September 1, 2012, fourteen of the thirty registered political parties, coalitions and alliance fully or partially complied with this constitutional obligation.
Additionally, Article 79© subsection (i) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia and Chapter iv, section 13.1 of the Guidelines Relating to the Registration of Political Parties and Independent Candidates require political parties to establish and maintain a functioning office in the Capital of the Republic.
During inspection of headquarters of political parties, alliance and coalition in this month, headquarters of 9 of the 30 registered political parties were found to be in good condition.
In its regular plenary on September 11, 2012, the BOC reached a decision to grant a 30day grace period to all political parties that availed their headquarters for inspection but are not in good condition to improve on them and avail same to the Commission for inspection. Parties that wrote to notify the Commission of their relocation prior to the inspection exercise are required to complete the relocation of their headquarters and avail same for inspection by the Commission within two months.
For parties that do not have headquarters, the NEC Legal Section has been mandated to begin the process of legal action to revoke their registration. Parties in violation of Article 83(d) have two weeks as of September 11, 2012, to submit their financial report or face appropriate punitive measures.
Let me close by extending thanks and appreciation to USAID, through IFES, for providing funds to hold this very important consultative conference. Similarly, I would like to thank all donors to the Basket Funds, UNDP and IFES for their immense contributions toward the NEC capacity building initiatives and the Electoral Law Reform Process.
Thanks to all of you political leaders who took time off your very busy schedule to be in attendance at this very important consultative conference. I thank you!