INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ELECTORAL LAW REFORM (OPENING STATEMENT)
Statement Delivered by the Acting Chairman of the
National Elections Commission (NEC),
Cllr. Elizabeth J. Nelson
On the Occasion of the Opening Ceremony of the International Conference on Electoral Law Reform Process
Officials of Government
Hon. Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House of Representatives
The Chairmen and Members of the House and Senate
Standing Committees on Elections and Inauguration
Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, Chairman of the Governance Commission
Cllr. Jallah Barbu, Chairman of the Law Reform Commission
The President and Members of the Liberia National Bar Association
Mr. Johann Kriegler, Former Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa
Representatives of the United Nations Mission in Liberia and Specialized Agencies of the United Nations
Religious and Civil Society Leaders
Representatives of Political Parties
Facilitators and Special Guests
Members of the Press
Distinguished, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me first on behalf of the National Elections Commission (NEC) extend heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of you for honoring our invitation to be present here today at the International Conference on the Electoral Law Reform Process.
In particular, the NEC is very grateful to our special guests and legal experts from around the world who have taken up time from their busy schedules to come and join their Liberian counterparts to contribute their expertise to this worthwhile undertaking.
It is exactly one year since the NEC organized Liberia’s second landmark post-war legislative and presidential elections in 2011. The professional, peaceful and orderly conduct of those elections has today contributed significantly to the consolidation of peace and stability in our country.
Though this achievement, from all indications is reflective of the steady enhancement of the NEC’s capacity in the delivery of credible and transparent elections, it has however become increasingly important for the Commission to embark upon appropriate measures that will improve and enhance the overall electoral system of Liberia.
Immediately following the 2011 elections, the NEC hosted a three-day comprehensive lessons learnt conference with the view of taking stock of the 2011 electoral process. The conference provided a platform for stakeholders to assess all of the processes leading to the conduct of the 2011 elections and make recommendations where necessary for the enhancement of future elections in the country. Among recommendations made at the conference was the need to reform the electoral laws of Liberia in order to reflect current reality.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the current demanding need of the electoral system of Liberia is a reform of the elections law. This has absolutely become necessary given that some of the existing laws that apply to elections are ambiguous while others were specifically enacted for the 2005 elections, and such are not applicable in the present electoral system.
In fulfillment of this key recommendation from the lessons learnt conference, the NEC in collaboration with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has over the last six months been massively holding a series of nation-wide consultative forums to solicit the inputs of citizens in the electoral law reform process.
These strings of consultations were conducted in ten (10) of the fifteen (15) counties of Liberia, including Bomi, Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Margibi, Maryland, Nimba and Sinoe. It is also very important to note here that consultations on the electoral law reform process have also been held with political parties, women groupings and civil society organizations in Liberia.
The consultation with women groupings was very important because mainstreaming women with emphasis on women and youth in electoral processes over the last six years has been an area of major concern to the NEC.
That is why the electoral law reform public consultation component on women mainstreaming focused mainly on participants making key proposals that engendered the enactment of implementable election laws in all contexts.
It is obvious that citizens must have confidence and trust in the electoral management body such as the NEC of Liberia, and the processes it manages. This means that they must recognize and accept that the NEC is administering all laws appertaining to elections in a transparent, fair, consistent and efficient manner.
This is definitely required because the credibility of elections is of paramount concern in all countries that are inclined to making elections the basis for the sustenance of their democracies.
That is why as a Commission, we are conscious that our actions in the management of elections must be consistent with our election laws, guidelines and regulations, as well as, international best practices.
Your excellences, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we have gathered here today at this two-day international conference to generate the inputs and suggestions of all participants in the revision process of our electoral laws. The perspective of this conference on the reform process of the electoral laws is very important as we desire to ensure that our electoral law, when amended, would be in line with international best practices.
In closing, I would like to, on behalf of the NEC, implore you to collectively and objectively deliberate the issues that would culminate into proposals that would be submitted to the legislature for the improvement of the electoral system of Liberia.
I thank you!