Major electoral offences in Liberia’s 2023 presidential and legislative elections

Next month, Liberians will elect new leaders in the presidential and legislative elections. It will be the fourth in the history of Liberia since the end of the first and second civil wars that lasted for almost 14 years and took away the lives of at least 150,000 Liberians.

As Liberians gear up for the elections, there are major offences that must be avoided to keep the peace and stability in the country.

The body charged with the responsibility to conduct the country’s elections is the National Elections Commission (NEC), and the body has long since commenced its work for the upcoming elections.

According to the timetable of the Liberian election, the political campaign was officially declared open on August 5, 2023, and is expected to end on October 8, two days before the election.

At the start of the campaign, the streets of Monrovia, the Capital city of Liberia, became very busy and noisy as some supporters chanted in support of political parties and independent candidates, as seen here and here.

These actions by the political actors at some point became a nuisance to others, impeding the free flow of traffic to other citizens who had gone to do their normal business.

As campaigning heats up towards the elections, DUBAWA has outlined a number of offences that must be avoided.

Major Offences

Some of the major offences that could land any political parties and independent candidates into trouble are:

  1. Use of state resources

According to chapter 10.2 (a) of the new election laws of Liberia, found on page 12 of this document, the use of state resources is an election offence punishable by a fine.

The law states, “No candidate or political party shall use state resources in an election campaign or preparation of an election campaign.”

  1. The law went further: “Except the state resource is made available for all candidates and political parties for the election or that state resource is generally available to the public and is provided on the same term as the public.”
  2. Attempts, assistance and conspiracies

Another offence, according to the law, is attempts, assistance and conspiracies to offend the electoral laws. The law states:

“Any person who attempts or assists another person(s) or conspires with another person(s) to commit an offence under this law is guilty of an election offence punishable by a fine.”

  1. Election campaign expenses

Under the law, chapter 7, which talks about election campaign expenses, spells out that non-Liberians shall not contribute to the campaign of any independent candidates and political parties. This is found on page 11 of this document.

The law states, “No person shall contribute funds or assets to any political parties or independent candidates from outside Liberia unless they are a Liberian citizen who has attained the age of 18 years.”

The constitution of Liberia backs this law under article 82 (b & C), which states, among other things, that:

“No political party or organisation may hold or possess any funds or other assets outside of Liberia; nor may they or any independent candidates retain any funds or assets remitted or sent to them from outside Liberia unless remitted or sent by Liberian citizens residing abroad.”

  1. Election obstructions

Obstruction of the election process is another offence that may lead you into trouble. According to the elections law, a person is guilty of this crime if he or she obstructs the commission or any of its officers in the administration of an election.

Under section 10.25(c), found on page 12 of this document, the law states:

“A person has obstructed the election process if he/she obstructs the Commission or any of its officers in the administration of an election under this Law by willfully blocking of immediate access into and out of voting centres, willfully blocking the driveways, highways, street(s) to voting places and to NEC offices, willfully failing to deliver or delaying the delivery of any item/s or services in which he/she had been contracted to provide, following the contract and willfully denying, delaying or obstructing access to premises that he/she had been contracted to provide, in accordance with the contract commits an election offence punishable by a fine.”

On November 26, 2021, Liberian protesters staged a blockade of a key road for trade in the country, demanding that the government intervene to approve the election of a graft-accused politician.

Brownie Samukai, a former Defense Minister under the former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, won a senatorial seat during the 2020 midterm senatorial election in Lofa County but was denied to be duly seated following his conviction by the Supreme Court of Liberia for misapplication of soldiers’ pension funds.   

  1. Campaign guidelines violations

According to the 2023 elections campaign guidelines, the National Elections Commission encourages all independent candidates and political parties to submit their campaign schedules, including date, time and venue, before the commencement of its campaign activities.

The law states:

“Any Political Party, Alliance, Coalition, or Independent Candidate found to have contravened these guidelines shall, in keeping with due process, be fined an amount not less than US$1,000.00 nor more than US$5,000.00, or their equivalent in Liberian Dollars, payable in the Government of Liberia revenue.”

  1. Violation of Farmington River Declaration (FRD)

Prior to the commencement of the political campaign, the National Elections Commission and all political parties and independent candidates signed a document called the  Farmington River Declaration (FRD) that seeks to maintain peace during the electoral process.

Under this document, there are several dos and dont’s that political actors should and must adhere to during these elections.

The document seeks, among other things, “the prevention of electoral violence, impunity, injustice and when and where they occur, to address them through legal means.”

  1. Provocation

During the start of political campaigns, supporters and sympathisers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) were seen carrying caskets with the photograph of the main opposition candidate, Ambassador Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the Unity Party, on it, symbolising that he has died.

This action by the CDC supporters was widely condemned by local and international bodies in the country, including President Weah himself, on the grounds that the group’s action was provocative, counterproductive and contradictory to the Farmington River Declaration Agreement.      

Provocation is another election offence that could land a candidate or political party into trouble during elections. The f#Farmington River Declaration, which seeks to ensure peace throughout the election process, strongly frowns against any independent candidate, political party, or even their supporters.

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