By E.J. Nathaniel Daygbor
Planned activates linked to the holding of Liberia’s general elections have fallen behind schedules as infighting and accusations of corruption dogged the West African nations electoral body.
Voter registration targeted for a three-month period starting December 15 this year to March 17, 2023 has been postponed indefinitely. National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah told a recent Senate hearing the timeline was missed due to change in the selection of vendor for the procurement of biometric voting equipment.
New date for voter registration depends on talks with US technology company, Laxton Group, which NEC is negotiating a $12 million United States dollars contract to supply and manage its biometric voting system. NEC is seeking “No Objection” waiver from the Public Procurement and Concession Commission to accelerate the deal.
Laxton Group had asked for five months to get started according to Bomi County Senator Edwin Snowe. This suggests voters’ registration could kick off in April 2023, just six months to elections day –October 10.
“This will be detrimental and could be chaotic for the electoral process,” Snowe said.
Bickering amongst and between the electoral body’s commissioners has adversely impacted the country’s preparedness to hold free fair and democratic elections.
“Chairperson Brown allegation against her co-chairperson Cllr. Tepleh Reeves of reportedly ‘tempering with the bidding process is scaring and grave. This should claim the attention of political actors and international partners, he said.
If the current chairperson can accuse another member of the board of commissioners of tempering with bidding exercise, Snowe said such claim would give rise to potential accusation of votes rigging or it would derail public confidence in the National Elections Commission.
Tepleh Reeves has also accused the Chairperson of unilaterally selecting Laxon Group after she asked colleagues for recusal f from the procurement process.
The commissioners’ working relationship is toxic and could lead to national crisis the former House Speaker said..
President George Weah will be seeking reelection at the 2023 polls, barely six years after his 2017 win was challenged on accounts that the National Elections Commission carried out widespread fraud and irregularities. The Supreme Court said in a ruling the fraud was not egregious to overturn the elections results.
US Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy said in a December 9, open letter additional Individual sanctions would applied under the Global Magnitsky Act in moths leading to the October polls should the goal of transparency, free, credible and peaceful elections is wanting.