Nomination opens for Liberia’s October poll

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Nomination of candidates for Liberia’s General Election have opened amidst concern over election irregularities.

The National Elections Commission (NEC), in line with its 2017 timetable, on Monday commenced processing the nomination of candidates in an exercise expected to end on July 11.

Liberians will on October 10 vote in presidential and legislative elections that hope to usher in the first peaceful transfer of power from a democratically elected civilian leader.

Incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in office since 2006, is not eligible to run after serving two six-year terms.

But President Sirleaf’s Vice-President Joseph Boakai is on the ballot for the ruling Unity Party. His major challenger is football legend and Senator George Oppon Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party.

Appear in person

There are 20 other parties contesting the polls.

The new president will take office in January 2018.

NEC chairman Jerome Korkoyah warned that applicants wishing to be nominated for the presidential and legislative elections must appear in person during the nomination period.

The elections guidelines provide for a minimum age of 35 years for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and 25 years for representatives (law makers).

While eligible presidential candidates must have resided in Liberia for at least the last 10 years, the requirement for the representatives is one year prior to the elections.

Mr George Weah. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The candidates are also scrutinised for tax compliance.

There have been concerns over the potential for irregularities in the voter registration, with reports of the disappearance of names and pictures of those already listed during the verification that ended on Saturday.

Comments by the head of NEC last week that anyone with a voter’s card, even if they were not listed on the register, would be allowed to vote, sparked further concerns among the opposition and the independent media.

It followed reports of the discovery of registration materials in the private residence of a government official working at the presidency.

However, President Sirleaf last week described the 2017 polls as a defining moment for the country, promising a free and fair process.

Peace efforts

“We are looking forward to free, fair and transparent elections,” she said in a statement issued by the Executive Mansion, as part of discussions with the visiting Chair of UN Peace Building Commission (PBC), Mr Olof Skoog.

PBC is an inter-governmental advisory agency that supports peace efforts in countries emerging from conflicts, mobilises actors and resources and proposes strategies for post-conflict recovery and peace-building.

The October poll will be Liberia’s third since democracy was restored with the first election of Mrs Sirleaf.

The country has been limping into recovery, but has faced challenges of institutional capacity, security and allegations of corruption.

Mr Skoog’s visit was geared toward gaining first-hand knowledge of the country’s peace building priorities ahead of the elections as the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission scales down its presence.

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