Monrovia — The opposition CollaboratingPolitical Parties(CPP) has rejected the dates designated as campaign period by the National Elections Commission (NEC) for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
Recently, the NEC published Key Electoral Dates for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections, designating September 4 – October 8, 2023 as “Presidential & Legislative Campaign Period.”
However, in a communication to the NEC’s Board of Commissioners through its Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lansanah, the CPP accused the NEC of setting up the date in favor of President George Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) at the detriment of the opposition and called for the time to be extended to 90 days.
“The CPP believes that the NEC prescribed campaign period is biased against and prejudicial to the opposition community and in favor and for the interest of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Party and Presidential Candidate, George M. Weah. Moreover, the current timetable (September 4 – October 8, 2023) is inconsistent with the 2 – 3 months historically prescribed by the NEC for campaigning,” the CPP said in the letter signed by its Secretary-general Aloysius Toe.
Continuing, it said: “Madam Chair and Honorable Commissioners, the CPP sees the latest action by the NEC to allot only 34 days for campaigning in a nationwide presidential and legislative elections as an attempt to deprive and deny opposition political parties the right to canvas for votes within a reasonably adequate period.”
It contended that the designation of 34 days is “unreasonable and inadequate,” and will create the condition for opposition parties not to travel and cover the 43,000 square miles land area of Liberia, and reach the over two million registered voters; something it said incumbent presidential candidate George Weah of the CDC has already done and continues to do.
“The CPP therefore requests the NEC to allow ninety (90) days for all candidates to adequately campaign throughout the length and breadth of Liberia. The request is due to the fact that the raining season extends to the campaign period and most of the roads are deplorably impassable, thus making a vast portion of the country inaccessible. We would appreciate you to convene an IPCC meeting with political parties to discuss this and other issues.”
The CPP which is currently made of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the conflict-ridden Liberty Party (LP) said, while it acknowledges the authority of the NEC to prescribe the timetable for political campaigning by candidates for presidential and legislative offices, the CPP also expects and demands that the exercise of such authority should respect and protect the rights of political parties and their candidates to canvas for votes within an adequately reasonable period, as guaranteed by Article 81 of the Liberian Constitution.
Article 81 states that “any citizen, political party, organization or association, being resident in Liberia, of Liberia nationality or origin, and not otherwise disqualified under the provisions of this constitution and laws of the land, shall have the right to canvas for the votes for any political party or candidate at any election… “
The party noted that the NEC’s authority to prescribe the timetable for political campaign also carries a corresponding obligation and duty to exercise such authority within the bounds of reasonable fairness to all parties and ensure a level-playing field, without an appearance of bias and prejudice against opposition political parties and in favor of the ruling Party.
The collaboration recounted that during the 2017 Presidential and General Elections, the NEC designated two months, August 8 – October 8, 2017 as the campaign period; adding “The CPP wonders why the NEC is now only allotting 34 days for nationwide campaigning.”
“From Presidential to Campaign Tour’
Since 2021 President Weah has been touring entire country, initiatiing several development initiatives and making pledges. The Presidents’ tour was recently climaxed in Montserrado County.
According to the CPP, the President was and actively campaigning for his second term presidential bid, under the guise of “Presidential Nationwide Tour.” It added that President Weah has provided two pickups, one ambulance and ten motorbikes in his own name and not in the name of the government, to each Traditional County Council throughout the country and has made numerous campaign statements.
In addition, the opposition bloc pointed out that the President’s suspended Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, has also been campaigning throughout the country, dishing out public money to influence votes.
“These actions by leading figures of the ruling CDC clearly show that the ruling Party has been campaigning actively, and continues to do so, despite there being no existence of the formal declaration of the opening of campaign by the NEC – something which opposition parties are prevented from doing in keeping with law” said.
ECC raises Concerns
The CPP’s complaint comes a day after the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), the largest civil society platform that observes elections called for the extension of the campaign period.
The ECC, in a statement issued on Monday, stated that the one-month period allocated for political campaigns is not enough and should be extended to allow citizens to engage more with the candidates. “The limited time for the campaign also has the tendency to create increased tension as a result of two or more parties or candidates campaigning at the same time in the same location which has a potential to increase electoral violence,” it said.