Opposition Political Parties Call for Re-Structuring of the Elections Commission, Surprise Over the Appointment of Mary Brownell and James Chelley to the Commission
(Press Release Issued by Five Opposition Parties)
The Free Democratic Party (FDP), Liberia Action Party (LAP), Liberian Unification Party (LUP), Liberian people's Party (LPP), and Unity Party (UP) hereby inform partisans, supporters and the Liberian people on recent developments relative to the Re-structuring of the Elections Commission as follows:
For a protracted period now, given the no-peace, no war situation that has defined the elusiveness of real peace in Liberia, and in anticipation of the forthcoming 2003 General and Presidential Elections, Liberian political parties and civil society organizations have consistently called for three things: (i) negotiations with the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to end the senseless civil war allowing them political space to bring their grievances to the political process; (ii) a stabilization force to provide an enabling security environment for the holding of transparent, free and fair elections, and (iii) the restructuring of the Elections Commission to engender national and international credibility in the ensuing electoral process.
Regarding the Restructuring of the Elections Commission, many suggestions have been advanced to President Taylor on how best the desired objective would be achieved. Notwithstanding these suggestions, and without the participation of the political parties, an Act amending Section 2.1 and 2.4 of Chapter Two of the New Elections Law of Liberia (1986) was passed into law in December by the National Legislature upon the recommendations of President Taylor. That amendment primarily achieved two things: (i) increased the membership of the commission from five (5) to seven (7); and (ii) made the quorum for meetings and decision-making five (5) Commissioners including the Chairman.
We the above named political parties readily recognize that as the Elections Commission currently stands expanded, the five (5) old members can hold meetings, take actions and make decisions to the exclusion of the two (2) new members. As structured, the two (2) new commissioners would have no impact on the proceedings or decisions of the Elections Commission. We conclude therefore that this is an artificial dressing of the Commission intended to cover the credibility issue, not to remove it.
In this context, we wrote President Taylor recommending the following compromise that the number of the commissioners could remain at seven (7) and the quorum at five (5), but that the five members for quorum and decision-making should mandatorily include the two new members. Collaterally, we suggested that when the full Commission sat, decision-making should be by either consensus or six members. In this way, both the spirit and the intent of the law would be ensured. We promised to submit a shortlist of credible Liberians for nomination to the Senate once we had reached common grounds on this issue.
To our surprise, while consultations were going on to solicit the views of a broader cross-section of the Liberian political parties and civil society organizations on credible Liberians to nominate later, we heard of the appointment of two persons to the Commission by the President Taylor. Regrettably, the manner in which the names were obtained and the vetted does not enjoy our confidence.
Accordingly, we maintain that in the absence of such amendments, the two new members will have no impact on the proceedings of the Commission. We, therefore, call on President Taylor and the National Legislature to further amend the amended elections law to provide that the two new members be made part of the quorum for decision-making. Meanwhile, we shall continue with consultations with political parties and civil society organizations to identify credible Liberians for recommendation to the President.
For: Liberia Unification Party
Isaac F. Manneh
For: Unity Party
Frank E. Teah, Jr.
For: Liberian People's Party
For: Free Democratic Party
For: Liberia Action Party
C. Gyude Bryant