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Abolish or Drastically Reform the National Elections Commission

Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

     The ideal of leading “Liberia in the years to come” will not be an easy task for the presumed winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but a massive political headache for this president until genuine peace talks are held, and also until the National Elections Commission is either drastically reformed or abolished to resolve the electoral crisis.

     Putting in place an effective electoral mechanism that is fair to future candidates, the people of Liberia, and the democratic process will send a clear message that Liberians are serious about nation-building; and that running for president alone is not nation-building but a selfish way to enhance one’s resume and the individual’s political career, which does not benefit the nation and its people.

     However, when those issues are not resolved and another electoral crisis erupts because the politicians are too busy protecting their political interests rather than the interests of all, the helpless population will always suffer the brunt of the nation’s internecine political crisis.

     As always the case with those visionless Liberian politicians, issues such as the recent electoral flub and other contentious national issues that should have gotten their immediate attention and remedied are always pushed under the rugs and forgotten, with the hopes that those issues will never appear again.  

                                            

     And instead of building and reforming institutions that will move Liberia forward from the Dark Age to the Modern Age, the Liberian politicians and their progressive brothers and sisters are focused only on the Liberian presidency, only to later react when things fall apart as they currently are in the aftermath of the recent presidential elections.

Former NEC Chair, James Fromoyan

     So why didn’t Mayson, Tubman, Sirleaf, Brumskine, Tipoteh, Fahnbulleh and Weah, etc, etc, etc fight or lobby the national Legislature vigorously to reform the undemocratic ways in which the National Elections Commission is set up to favor a sitting president?

     Why did the political leaders not join Weah and the CDC in 2005, when that group raised the issue; but are now reacting to the electoral boycott, the elections’ results, and the deaths of those innocent Liberians who died exercising their constitutional right to assemble?

     Because the Liberian people once experienced a similar electoral sham in 1985, when the despotic Samuel Kanyon Doe shamelessly manipulated the presidential elections and the Elections Commission headed by the clownish Emmett Harmon; when he (Mr. Doe) grab that year’s election by force are enough reasons for Liberia’s political, civic and religious leaders to drastically reform the current National Elections Commission.

     Now in 2011, the nation and its suffering people are once again caught in a mess created by the National Elections Commission, and are also caught between two angry and competing political camps whom are either claiming victory or are thrashing an election the other camp boycotted and claimed as not legitimate.

     From all indication, however, the 2011 presidential elections were controversial from the beginning to the end, because the problems that caused the controversy in the first were never resolved.

     The National Elections Commission is a corrupt and troubled institution comprised of unscrupulous bureaucrats and ruthless subordinates who are motivated by job security, partisan politics, and financial gains rather than the nation’s interests.

     The idea that a sitting president can appoint the chairman and members of the elections’ commission to conduct and oversee the electoral process while he or she is on the ballot is not only abhorrent but also undemocratic.

     It is also believed that the office of the disgraced former Chairman James Fromoyan, who is now on the run “mistakenly” released a mysterious letter he claimed not to have read but signed anyway, which changed the outcome of the (first-round) October 11 results to favor the incumbent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.    

     That particular letter got the nation’s attention because James Fromoyan and his Commissioners lied to the Liberian people when they led them to believe that President Sirleaf was poised to face the Tubman/Weah team in a possible November 8 runoff election.

     With such embarrassing revelation, the most prudent political move would have been for every Commissioner (not only James Fromoyan) to resign, so as not to undermine the integrity of the presidential election and future elections.

     However, before the letter in question was even released to the public during the 2011 presidential elections, candidate George Weah and his camp spoke unhappily in 2005 about the political shenanigans of then-Chairlady Frances Johnson Morris, whom the CDC publicly accused of “violating the constitution of the Republic of Liberia and its statues relating to the neutrality and qualification of the election commissioners.”

     The Campaign Manager at the time, Jacob Kabokale, speaking at a news conference said Ms. Morris’ behavior “had the effect of corrugating the integrity of the electoral process.”

     Of course, Mr. Kabokale is right about the lack of neutrality in the governing structure of the National Elections Commissions (NEC), because such corrosive act undermines the democratic process and certainly exposed the country to chaos and violence.

     It is true that George Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change supporters rightfully complained in 2005 (as they also did in 2011) about the corrupt partisan politics of James Fromoyan. Mr. Weah and his party members should have sounded the alarm much louder; and if possible, should have even occupied the streets of Liberia until the NEC is genuinely reformed.

    By participating in the first round of the 2011 presidential elections and not participate in the second round, undermines the legitimate grievance the Tubman/Weah team had with the NEC. Had team Tubman/Weah won the elections, most Liberians believe the duo wouldn’t complain about the results or even call for a national boycott.

     So where are the adults in the room, or the patriotic politicians when we needed them the most? Becausethe politicians who are now reacting hypocritically to the recent carnage in Liberia, a result of the undemocratic set up of the National Elections Commission lacked the credibility to blame the administration or anyone for the tragedy.

     Had the Liberian leaders done their part to advocate reforming the troubled and questionable NEC, things wouldn’t have fallen apart and out of control as they did. The NEC needs a complete and unequivocal overhaul to be taken seriously. 

     Reform the National Elections Commission and replace its governing body with an independent and neutral citizen’s electoral board!

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