Civil Society Raises Issue With NEC …Wants Senatorial Election Held Dec. 30, But Commission Says It Is Still Holding Consultations

The National Civil Society Council has raised four-count issues with recommendations to the National Elections Commission (NEC) over the holding of the special senatorial elections amidst the Ebola pandemic in the country.

In a letter addressed to the Chairperson, Jerome Korkoyah, the Council reported that its reservations were tendered at a consultative discussion last Monday with the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and other members of civil society organization where among other things, the issue of mitigating the further spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) during electoral activities and the election timetable were cardinal.

The conglomeration of civil society organizations said it resolves to support the holding of the Special Senatorial Election should the NEC modifies the campaign format that will rule out mass political rallies and movements of people.

On the issue of election timetable, the Civil Society Council said the December 16 date set is unrealistic giving the huge logistical and technical preparations including recruiting and training of election workers, required to conduct a credible and transparent election.

The group is however proposing that the election be held on December 30, 2014. “This we believe will give the NEC an additional two weeks to deal with any unforeseen problem affecting the conduct of the election and still have enough time to deal with any legal challenges emerging from the conduct of the election,” the CSOs suggested.

The group also informed NEC that civil society groups will also need adequate time to train and work with the 2,000 observers across the country because considering maximizing time, resources and avoiding voter apathy, the NEC should be mindful that the election covers the entire 15 political subdivisions rather than selected counties.

To the issue of timetable, the civil society council recommended that there should be huge logistical and technical preparations including recruiting and training of election workers, required to conduct a credible and transparent election as well as adequate time to train and work with observers across the country.

Other issues that comprised of the four-count resolution, the Civil Society Organizations’ reservation were also targeted at voters’ apathy to participate in the election adding that presently the concern of the population is directed to ending the Ebola disease from further outbreak, seeking livelihood and hoping that academic activities resume as well as the reopening of health facilities.

The council said the population interested in voting may not be high as expected because it is not a priority and recommended that there be a partnership with Civil Society Organizations to reach out and explain why the election did not take place on October 14 as required by the Constitution and why it is important and necessary to participate in the election.

On the issue of congestion on the day of election, the group’s reservation is that polling centers are usually crowd-congested and a risk factor in the spread of the EBOLA virus.

The group resolved that the NEC increases the number of polling centers at polling precincts across the country which might reduce the number of persons queuing at a given time to cast their ballots.

“We also think that where possible, some polling precincts be located in open spaces such as government administrative buildings and football stadium or gymnasium. These should be reinforced by other safety measures to reduce any further risk of spreading the virus and accompanied by mass public education on what these measures will be,” it concluded.

When contacted yesterday, the NEC Public Relations Officer, Joey Kennedy, said the Commission has been holding consultations with various groups for the successful holding of the senatorial election.

He confirmed that although NEC has proposed December 16 in keeping with the resolution passed by the National Legislature, the Commission is still holding consultations with the intent of gathering more suggestions and information surrounding the conduct of elections at this time.

The NEC consultations will continue today in Zwedru City with stakeholders from Grand Kru, River Gee, Maryland and Grand Gedeh Counties as well as stakeholders from Bong, Nimba and Lofa who are converging in Gbarnga City.

Stakeholders from Gbarpolu, Bomi, Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount Counties have already met in Tubmanburg City and, also stakeholders from Margibi, Grand Bassa, River Cess and Sinoe concluded meeting in Buchanan City over the weekend.