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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Strengthening Electoral Democracy In Liberia

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By Nathan Mulbah

It is indeed heartwarming that the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) is collaborating with the National Elections Commission (NEC) to ensure that legal disputes and complaints emanating from the 2023 Legislative and Presidential elections across the country are promptly adjudicated and resolved in keeping with the legal time frame designated for the resolution of elections related disputes.

This is certainly a laudable initiative.

The current collaboration subsisting between the LNBA and the NEC during these elections is basically to ensure that the electoral process unfolds peacefully without legal glitches.

This 2023 election collaboration initiative is being funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Liberia under the UNDP’s democratic building initiatives.

We doff our hats for the UNDP family for putting their cash in this direction for the grooming of our democracy and the maintenance of the peace in Liberia.

Essentially, the collaboration mechanism between the two entities is intended to ensure the undertaking of programming aimed at enhancing transparency, deterring fraud and increasing the chances that the 2023 elections would be conducted in conformity with Liberians laws and international best practices.

Under the collaborative electoral engagement agreement, the LNBA and the NEC are working in-sync on critical national issues such as Legal Electoral Reforms, Capacity Building, Training on Rule of Law and Electoral Dispute and Complaint Resolution.

Of all the issues the NEC and the LNBA have agreed to collaborate on in strengthening electoral democracy in Liberia, the two institutions are at this crucial moment collaborating on resolving electoral complaints and disputes which may come about during the 2023 polls.

In rolling out this project, the LNBA is having series of consultations across the country with various stakeholders in the 2023 electoral project on the way forward in resolving electoral disputes and complaints amicably void of unnecessary rancor that have got the proclivity to boomerang into serious national crisis.

So far, the LNBA has staged regional consultations in Tubmanburg: for Bomi, Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties; in Buchanan: for Margibi, Bassa and Rivercess counties and in Ganta: for Nimba, Bong and Lofa counties respectively.

The LNBA is also expected to hold consultations in the Southeastern Region of Liberia and use community radio stations to spread the message across Southeastern Liberia simultaneously.

The various consultations across the country are being attended by participants drawn from the NEC, civil society organizations, the media, local government officials, religious community, traditional society, youth groups, women organizations, candidates and political parties.

Pointedly, the cross-country consultations undertaking by the LNBA during these elections are intended to encourage people to take advantage of the controlling laws put in vogue for the adjudication of electoral disputes and complaints that may emanate from the electoral process.

Facilitators of the countrywide consultations are being drawn from the LNBA, the NEC, the Judiciary and other related sectors of the judicial system.

Calling on the Liberian electorates to have trust in the NEC, the LNBA said, though there may be irregularities during the electioneering process, the public should always seek to use the legal mechanisms lay down under the law for the adjudication of electoral disputes and complaints during the conduct of elections.

According to the collaborative agreement between the two institutions, the LNBA will send about 15 members of the Bar to the 19 election magisterial areas in the 15 political subdivisions of Liberia to help the NEC in the resolution of electoral complaints and disputes emanating from the electoral process.

Since the establishment of the LNBA in 1907 by an act of the National Legislature, this is the first time that the LNBA is collaborating with the NEC in the litigation of electoral disputes and complaints.

Notably, in the lead up to this agreement the LNBA in a press release described the engagement meeting between the two institutions as critical and a platform to discuss a credible 2023 elections that will strengthen peace and democracy in Liberia.

Under this new collaboration between the LNBA and the Election Management Body, the LNBA is expected to intrepidly seek to have stakeholders respect the different lines of the electoral disputes and complaints adjudication procedures.

The LNBA, as a major national stakeholder in the democratic process, has seriously cautioned Liberians against reckless actions that could undermine rule of law and eventually subvert Liberia’s democratic gains.

Normally, in keeping with electoral laws it takes about 30 days for NEC hearing on resolving electoral disputes and complaints to be conducted while it takes about seven (7) days for the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia to resolve electoral related disputes and complaints.

So far, in the wake of the ongoing 2023 Legislative and Presidential elections, there have been two official electoral complaints.

They include the legal litigation about whether aspirant Nimene Tweah (The Original Countryman) is domicile in Electoral District 11 where he wants to be a Representative candidate and the Unity Party filing of a Writ of Mandamus compelling the NEC to publish the Final Registration Roll (FRR) of the 2023 voters’ registration.

By the way A Writ of Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy and is issue usually to command the performance of a ministerial act.

This complex-sounding legal term actually refers to a somewhat uncommonly used legal maneuver in which a judge, usually at the appellate court level, issues a written command for an individual or entity to perform its public duty, or its duty according to the law.

Understandably, electoral related disputes or complaints can be difficult to resolve and have the capacity, at their worst, to cause significant divisions within the country if they are not adjudicated properly.

It is important that elections disputes, complaints and conflicts are handled promptly and properly to minimize their impact on elections and potential damage to the elections commission, the courts and the legislature.

Furthermore, it is important that election disputes and complaints be handled properly and resolved as quickly and fairly as possible.

This is one reason why ‘Your Truly’ is upbeat that the LNBA is collaborating with the NEC in helping to resolve electoral disputes and complaints that may arise as a result of the 2023 electoral process.

It is my passionate appeal and ardent hope that the electorates, candidates, political parties, electoral stakeholders and all well-meaning Liberians will endeavor to make use of the complaint mechanism procedures lay down by the NEC and partners in resolving electoral disputes, complaints and conflicts as this will help strengthen our bourgeoning electoral democracy.

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