Putting into Effect Election Laws and the Constitutional Provisions for the Conduct of Democratic Elections in Liberia in 2003

By Mohamedu F. Jones, Esq

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 28, 2002

Editor's Note: Mohamedu F. Jones, Esq., a Liberian lawyer in the Washington DC area, served as one of the speakers at the conference held by the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) on Friday, May 24, 2002. The full text of his remark is published below:

Legal instruments and framework of the electoral process comprise the constitution, election laws, administrative regulations and codes of conduct

Electoral integrity in Liberia

In a democracy people compete in the elections to win public office to gain public power for the purpose of influencing public policy and the use of state resources. Historically, political leaders in Liberia have been more interested in the use of state resources than in influencing public policy for the national benefit.

Electoral integrity is fundamental to the principles of a democracy and representative government, and is an integral part of free, fair and reliable elections. Electoral integrity speaks to transparency, accountability and accuracy of election administration, in addition to ethical electoral behavior and integrity monitoring systems.

Without electoral integrity, there is no guarantee that the will of the voters will be reflected in the election results, or that the people will have an opportunity to dispense with a political administration or political party that they no longer wish to run the affairs of the country.

Integrity in any electoral process comprises a legal and ethical behavior, as well as a system of mechanisms adopted to protect the viability of the electoral process.

Electoral integrity requires:

The institutional framework of electoral integrity consists of:

1. Integrity in election administration
2. Integrity in participation
3. Monitors of election integrity
4. Enforcement of election integrity

Liberia today lacks the institutional framework of electoral integrity to conduct good and proper elections in 2003, because:

1. The government and system in Liberia lacks the capacity to manage free and fair elections, and even more importantly the capability to obtain the necessary capacity in the future. The major areas of deficiency are:

· Finance
· Personnel
· Legal
· Logistics and operations
· Technical
· Public information and education

2. There is no evidence that Liberia's president, Charles Taylor, has the capacity to preside over free and fair elections:

In my estimation, the capacity deficiencies of the government of Liberia, and the absence of evidence in the public record to show that President Taylor has political interests, the political will, the political morality, and the political character to uphold a free and fair electoral process in Liberia do not support Liberia's ability to hold free and fair elections in 2003.

What are other alternatives?

In the face of these realities, we must consider other alternatives. I present two:

A. War
Even a cursory review of well history of will show that war may be a legitimate instrument of political change. Indeed, most of the great democracies of the world endured Civil War as a necessary part of the process of achieving democracy. But Liberia has already had its Civil War.

War as an instrument of political change in Liberia must be roundly and unequivocally rejected and condemned. No Liberian of goodwill, knowing and experiencing the despair, the desperation, and the deprivation that the people of Liberia have lived with for nearly 25 years can support war in Liberia. It is an act of crime against humanity to inflict war against the people of Liberia as an instrument of political change.

B. United Nations Electoral Assistance
The United Nations electoral assistance program offered two forms of assistance (1) standard electoral assistance activities, and (2) major electoral missions

Standard electoral assistance activities

· Ordination and support of international observers who have been invited to observe an election.

· Technical assistance to electoral authorities covering electoral administration planning, voter registration, election budgeting, review of electoral laws and regulations, training local election officials, logistics, voter and civic education, procurement of election materials, coordination of international donor assistance, electoral dispute resolution, computerization electoral rolls, and boundary delimitation.

· Support national election monitors usually civil society monitoring elections on a nonpartisan bases.

· Limited observation ("Follow and Report") where small group of U.N. observers are sent to a country to follow the final phase of the electoral process and issue an internal report to the Secretary-General.

Major electoral missions - require a mandate from the General Assembly or the Security Council

· Organization and conduct of the electoral process by assuming the role loan only fulfilled by national electoral authorities including the establishment of the system of laws, perceived years and administrative measures, as well as actual administration of electoral process.

· Supervision of the electoral process - where a special representative of the Secretary-General certifies all stages of the process, including both political and electoral components with respect to their fairness inappropriateness, as well as the results of the elections.

· Verification of electoral process - where the government remains responsible for the organization and conduct of the elections, and the United Nations is mandated to observe and verify the legitimacy of the various stages of the electoral process and compliance of the national electoral authorities with the electoral regulations.

There is no question in my mind that Liberia needs a major United Nations electoral mission. Ambassador Perry, the United States ought to consider offering a resolution to the Security Council to mandate a major electoral mission for Liberia. If a major electoral mission is not possible, then standard electoral assistance comprising technical assistance, coordination and support of international observers, and support for national election monitors are minimally necessary.

What steps need to be undertaken immediately?

· Evaluate the capacity of Liberia's elections authorities to address the most immediate challenges regarding the preparation of the October 2003 elections. Determining the immediate and medium-term training and capacity needs of the elections commission.

· Assess the pre-election environment and technical assistance needs, and make recommendations regarding practical and cost-effective means of targeting assistance to support the successful organization and conduct of elections.

· Evaluate the projected material and financial resource needs for the electoral process and contribute to the formulation of a national electoral budget.

· Assess the existing activity that plans of international donor is in providing technical and financial assistance to the Liberian electoral process in order to facilitate ordination of its other assistance and of one unnecessary expenditure or duplication.

· Advise the election commission on priority of tasks.

· Assist in the mobilization of funding for the 2003 elections.

· Develop the main elements for international assistance projects.

· Prepare a comprehensive report of the pre-election situation, election needs, and recommended assistance strategies.

A final caveat!

The active interest and participation of the government of Liberia is necessary for the successful implementation of any form of international electoral assistance.

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