Reaping the Dividends of Election Law Reforms

November 19, 2019

The regional electoral reform consultations have proven to be an excellent opportunity for Liberians to make their voices heard on constitutional reform.

Constitutional reform remains a unique opportunity for advancing reconciliation, political dialogue, peace consolidation, and a means to achieve consensus on sensitive and unresolved issues that underlie Liberia’s past conflict.

Constitutional Reform has been supported by UNDP since 2013 and is a key priority of the Government of Liberia, which creates the platform for nation-building, reconciliation, peace consolidation, security and development.

The process started with the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) organizing and leading discussions and debates on the 1986 Liberian Constitution geared toward deriving proposals for amendment, which were submitted to the National Legislature and would subsequently be presented to the voting population in a referendum for approval.

For over three years, the CRC spearheaded the Constitutional Review Process and was assisted by the Governance Commission (GC) and the Law Reform Commission (LRC).  

Development Partners- European Union, Sweden, Ireland, Canada, the United States Aid for International Development (USAID), the Peace Building Fund (PBF)  have been deeply involved financially, while at some point, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) provided technical and advisory support.

The national events involved political parties, women and youth groups, civil society organizations, the disabled community, traditional and local leaders etc. The opportunity was given to discuss whether the 1986 constitution meets the needs of Liberia as a post conflict country.

The CRC was instrumental in seeking to promote public understanding and awareness of the role the Legislature in the constitution review process in putting forward the particular proposed amendments and received and listened to views, ideas and debates that formed part of a consensus which was taken to a national conference.

During the process, partners agreed on the need to maintain the momentum by deepening engagements, building knowledge and sensitizing citizens on the importance of an inclusive and participatory constitutional reform process, recognizing that the constitutional reform process provides a unique opportunity to advance reconciliation, political dialogue, and peace consolidation efforts in Liberia.

This continued up to 2019, with more regional consultations. With the enormous investment made in the Election Law Reform, the process is beginning to yield fruits, as the National Legislature approves some of the proposed amendments.

UNDP Liberia Resident Representative Pa Lamin Beyai sees this as a critical and pivotal milestone after over five years of investment in the process.

“This is the moment to form democratic consensus around any change people want to see, move beyond the surface and begin to think deeply about the future of the nation and its people.

UNDP Elections Basket Fund Donors-European Union, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, USAID, as well as key stakeholders, the National Elections Commission, Civil Society Organizations, Political Parties and the entire citizenry can boast of some deliverables.

According to Dr. Beyai, the constitution accommodates and forms the framework for a fair and democratic society that the Liberian people desire. “The national discussions and debates among political parties, key national stakeholders and the citizenry have stimulated a call to action by the government” he said.

Legislators have given the yes vote to  a number of constitutional provisions; Elections to be conducted on the Second Tuesday in November instead of Second Tuesday in October; reduction in the time allotted for the hearing of complaints coming from General Elections from thirty (30) days to fifteen (15); reduction in the tenure of the President from six (6) years to five (5) years; reduction in the term for Senators from nine (9) years to seven (7) years; reduction in the term of Representatives from six (6) to five (5)years and at least one of whose parents was a citizen at the time of the person’s birth, shall be a natural born citizen of Liberia. Such person does not have to reach the age of maturity to decide his/her citizenship. Also, a natural born citizen of Liberia may hold another citizenship, but shall not qualify for elected national or public service positions and appointed positions; among others.

There is an Official Gazette from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into effect and ordered to be released in accordance with the law for the purposes of providing clear, correct and adequate information to the voting public about the proposed constitutional amendments to be presented to Liberians for a referendum vote. This has been scheduled according to the gazette, on Tuesday following September 30, 2020.