MONROVIA – Following the completion of the much-publicized biometric voters’ registration (BVR) process across the first six counties, the National Civil Society of Liberia (NCSCL) is craving the indulgence of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to provide additional time after the entire process so as to afford others the time the opportunity to get registered, because there have been some challenges along the way.
It could be recalled that eligible Liberian voters trooped to various registration centers across six counties from March 20, 2023, to April 9, 2023, to register as a first step to exercising their democratic franchise in the ensuing 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
And with phase one of the process including, Gbarpolu, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, Bassa, and Montserrado ending, phase two will begin today, Friday, April 21 to 11 May with the rest of the other nine counties.
However, NCSCL, which is the apex body of all civil society organizations in the country, wants an extension to the process on grounds that several persons were left out in the first phase and many would be left out in the second phase either due to technical problem that occasioned the process or due to low publicity/CVE.
The BVR is a key step to the voting process as eligible Liberian voters get set to go to the poll on October 10, 2023, in consonance with Article 77(b) of the Liberian Constitution.
The Council in a statement carved under the signature of its Chairperson Madam Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai, urged the NEC to provide additional time to the BVR owing to its significance to the entire electoral process.
The NCSCL had from the earlier stage of the registration called on Liberians of voting ages to turn out in their numbers to exercise their civil franchise; however, its latest call is predicated upon recent reports by two renowned election observatory bodies, the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON).
ECC, for instance, in its report, states that the process was generally well conducted, with some challenges during the initial phase of the exercise.
The group (ECC) points out that there were some late openings of centers primarily due to the lack of printer cards, electricity to power the equipment and the late arrival of some of the NEC registration teams.
For LEON, the group notes marginal increments in the number of registered voters in Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Cape Mount counties, but raises concern over the decline in numbers from Grand Bassa, Bomi, and Gbarpolu counties as compared with the 2020 numbers released by NEC.
LEON believes that such could be an outcome of low civil and voter education and as such, it calls on NEC and CSOs groups to do more in this area.
“LEON would like the NEC and other civil society groups in Liberia to step up voter education to bring more numbers out during phase two of biometric voter registration, which runs from April 21-May 11, 2023,” LEON notes.
NCSCL maintains that these predicaments along the way necessitate the need for additional time after the entire process.
NCSCL maintains that owing to the critical nature of political participation to the growth and development of the country, the Commission should see a reason to give ample time that would allow Liberian voters to take up the responsibility to form part of the ensuing political activities.
If the call is yielded to, the Council, at the other end of the coin, wants Liberian voters to join the process to first get register and to vote for the candidates of their choice as the impending elections are a test to the nation’s democracy.
On Elections Day, Liberian voters will troop at all 2,080 voting precincts or 5,911 voting centers to vote for a President/Vice President, 73 Representatives and 15 Senators, whose tenures would expire.
“The National Civil Society Council hereby calls on the NEC to ensure that the process is holistic, participatory and void of interference. Therefore, we hereby call on the Commission to add at least a week or two for the BV,” the statement pointed out.
NEC is the body clothed with the responsibility to conduct all electoral activities for all elective public offices within the territorial confines of Liberia.
At the same time, the Council also lauded all of the development partners for standing with and supporting Liberia does-far most especially the European Union (EU) and others for supporting the NCSCL.