Some 21 regional Long-Term Election Observers (LTOs) have arrived in Monrovia for deployment by the ECOWAS Commission and the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) for Liberia’s October 10 presidential and legislative elections.
The team made up of political and election experts, specialists in conflict management, constitutional, legal, gender issues and the media, will be deployed across Liberia’s 15 Counties to observe critical phases of pre-, during and post-election processes of the first polls to be entirely managed by Liberian authorities without the support of the UN Peace keeping Mission, UNMIL, which had been in the country for the past 14 years.
As part of their pre-deployment orientation, the observers on 18th September, received a briefing from the head of the Liberian Bar Association, and were also taken through the key aspects of the ECOWAS election observation methodology.
The pre-deployment orientation being handled by the ECOWAS Commission technical team and representatives of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), will also cover the pre-election context, the legal framework, international benchmarks and principles of electoral assessment, and introduction to the use of smart tablets for information/data collection and reporting.
Other elements are the roles and responsibilities of LTOs and the Code of conduct for ECOWAS observers and Guidelines for field work.
In his remarks, Mr. Francis Oke, Head of ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division and the ECONEC Permanent Secretary, enjoined the observers to take their tasks very seriously, noting that the Liberian elections are coming on the heels of teachable lessons from the recent presidential vote in Kenya, where the Supreme Court had to annul the polls because of “illegalities and irregularities.”
In their areas of deployment, the LTOs will engage with various stakeholders, including officials of government, the ruling and opposition political parties, the National Election Commission (NEC) Liberia, the judiciary and legislature, civil society, and the media, among others.
It is also the responsibility of the Long-term Election Observation Mission (LTEOM) to prepare the ground for regional Short-term observers, who will be arriving on the eve of the polls.
ECOWAS introduced the LTEOMs in 2014, with the support of development partners, particularly the German Agency for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, (GIZ), to complement the short-term observation mechanism as part of efforts to improve the election observation initiative as a tool for conflict prevention, promoting credible elections and democratic consolidation in the region.
The regional observation missions to Liberia are supported by the European Union (EU) and GIZ.
The ECOWAS Commission had earlier sent a pre-election fact-finding mission to Liberia, while ECONEC also undertook a Needs Assessment and Solidarity mission to the country ahead of the October vote.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission dispatches Election Observation Missions in line with the regional Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance 2001 and the Decision of Heads of State and Government in Dakar, 2003, which mandate ECOWAS to assist Member States in conducting elections.
Liberia has a population of 4.5 million, and the NEC registered some 2.1 million voters and 20 political parties for the October polls. Seventeen of the political parties and three independent candidates are contesting for the presidency and vice presidency, while more than 960 candidates are vying for the 70 parliamentary seats at stake.