Parties Want Local Elections Before National…

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted June 8, 2004

Some political parties attending an ongoing two-day consultative meeting of signatories to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are proposing that elections for local government officials be held before national elections come 2005

The political parties during their respective presentations at the conference yesterday, concurred with each other that Chieftaincy and Municipal elections for paramount, clan and town chiefs be held first to be followed by National elections for president, vice president, senators and representatives in October next year.

Speakers of the political party groupings including John F. Whitfield, Blamo Nelson, Cllr. Emmanuel Kromah and Lavala Kortima, Sr. propounded that this method will forestall the manipulation of local government elections by the Chief Executive; get around chiefs and mayors being imposed on the people through county legislative caucuses and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

“In our opinion, the major problem with the Liberian democracy experiment is inherent in the sequence of the electoral process of the country. After the traditional presidential and general elections for the president, vice president, senators and representatives, they are inaugurated and seated in Monrovia. Immediately, the president begins to appoint his cabinet, superintendents and commissioners; while the lawmakers proceed to quickly form themselves into legislative caucuses,” added Mr. Blamo Nelson in his presentation on behalf of UPP, LUP and PDPL.

He argued, experience has shown that once seated in Monrovia, the new officers soon become preoccupied with processing vouchers for their resettlement allowances and with activities to consolidate and affirm their powers. “Instead of focusing on the local elections, they insist on compliance with the hinterland or interior law for control. Chiefs and city mayors are being recommended for appointment by the president through legislative caucuses and the Minister of Inter Affairs, thus describing local elections as too expensive and troublesome,” Mr. Nelson iterated.

On what electoral system to be used, Mr. Whitfield said, contingent upon the Liberian constitution definition of elections, his group supports the majoritarian first past-the-post constituency based electoral system, an argument that was supported by subsequent speakers. On the issue of re-demarcation of constituencies, the political parties registered disagreement. Some parties are calling for the demarcation to be limited to counties that gave birth to new counties like Lofa and Bomi counties which gave birth to Gbarpolu county, and Grand Gedeh and Maryland and Grand Kru counties which brought forth River Gee County as envisaged by the CPA, while others said the entire country should be re-demarcated.

With regards for amendments to be made to the electoral system, some political parties said such was contemplated in the CPA, noting that they are fully aware that the CPA provides that should there be any change which tends to conflict with a provision of the constitution, the CPA takes precedence.

For their part, the National Transitional Government of Liberia, United Nations Mission in Liberia and the International Contact Group on Liberia gave their unflinching support to the 2005 electoral processes.

Meanwhile, the Chief Mediator in the Liberian peace process, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar is expected to address the last day of the conference this morning at the Monrovia City Hall.

© 2004: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.