By Olando Testimony Zeongar
MONROVIA – Amid pleas from some Liberians including key political actors, for an extension in the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) for the 10 October general and presidential elections, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has maintained that this Sunday, 9 April 2023, is the end of phase-1 of the country’s two-phase BVR maiden edition.
Recently, at the ceremony marking the singing of the Farmington River Declaration, which seeks to reaffirm commitment to a non-violent, free, fair and transparent general and presidential elections later this year on 10 October, former Vice President and Standard Bearer of Unity Party, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai, delivering a special statement on behalf of political parties in the country, pleaded with the NEC to extend the duration of the first phase of the Biometric Voter Registration exercise.
The UP Standard Bearer, on behalf of the political parties, called on the NEC to consider extending the registration process in the first six counties.
According to NEC guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 elections, the BVR process is scheduled to take place in the first six counties; Montserrado, Bomi, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu Counties, from 20 March to 9 April.
But, the political parties through Boakai, insisted that their plea for an extension in the first phase of the BVR is intended to make up for the delays and technical problems that have led to many Liberians not been able to register.
In spite of a caveat from the political parties that anything short of an extension in the first phase of the BVR, would be an act of deliberately disenfranchising Liberian citizens from participating in the ensuing elections, the NEC on Friday, 7 April announced, maintaining its previously set date of 9 April, as the end of phase-1 of the Biometric Voter Registration.
“Meanwhile, the public is informed that the Biometric Voter Registration exercise in the six Counties in phase one, will end on Sunday, 9th April 2023 at 7 PM,” a NEC statement released to press at the weekend, indicated.
Howbeit, the NEC announced that for phase one of the Voter Registration process, it will be extending the daily working hours of its BVR field staff, from the regular 8 AM to 5 PM schedule, to now begin at 8 AM and end at 7 PM instead, on Saturday, 8 April and Sunday, 9 April 2023 respectively, at all of its 1,065 Voter Registration Centers in Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, and Montserrado Counties.
The NEC stressed that its approval of additional hours to the BVR time targets Liberians, who are 18 years of age and above, who may already be in the queue at 5 PM, to be allowed to continue their registration up to 7 PM on Saturday, 8 April and on Sunday, 9 April 2023.