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Women Rights Groups, CSO Remind Stakeholders To ‘Prioritize New Election Law’

Women Rights actors and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have recommend that the portions of the bill as enshrined in Section 4.5 of the National Elections Law that were approved by the President and finalized by the legislative process be a priority to the House of Representatives.

Section 4.5 of the National Elections Law it says that; 1(b) ‘a political party or coalition in its submission to the commission, of its list of candidates for an election should endeavor to ensure that the governing body and its list of candidates has no less than 30% percent of its members from each gender.’

While section 4.5 1(c) says;’ a list of candidates submitted to the commission for an election should endeavor to have no less than 30% of the candidates on the list from each gender.’

According to them, Liberia’s legal framework has fallen short in promoting and ensuring women’s political participation and representation in national politics are guaranteed. Despite women accounting for nearly half of Liberia’s population, their representation in elected public offices remain alarmingly low.

The existing provisions in the New Elections Law, particularly section 4.5, sub-sections 1(b) and 1(c), lack the necessary specificity and enforceability to advance women’s participation and representation in elected positions.

Speaking on behalf of the Women’s group, the program Manager for WONGOSOL, Willet Salue said the proposed amendments introduce provisions for fines and sanctions on political parties or coalitions that fail to meet the minimum 30% gender representation requirement.

Madam Salue made the statement yesterday, June 6, 2023 at a press conference in Monrovia where she emphasized the need for women’s political participation to be ensured by political parties as the presidential and legislative elections are in sight.

According to her, political parties that will not comply with the requirement as provided for in the elections law must submit a new candidate list to the National Elections Commission (NEC) to include women participation or face a fine of at least US$10,000 pointing out, “Failure to pay such fine should result in the rejection of the party’s candidate list.”

She added that President Weah exercised his authority to line-veto certain provisions of the bills, citing existing constitutional provisions, the ECOWAS protocol A/SP1/12/01 on democracy and good governance, and how the vetoed items could cause concerns and delays in the election process.

“It is important to note that President Weah did not line-veto section 4.5 in his communication dated March 9, 2023, addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives; therefore, if the President’s vetoes are accepted by the Legislature, the sections of the bill related to Section 4.5, and all other sections not vetoed by the President, shall return to the President for signature and thereafter become law upon publication into a handbill,” she said.

For her part, the advocacy officer for medica Liberia, Christiana Wayon, recommended that the President publicly declare his approval of the portions of the bill related to section 4.5 of the National Elections Law and ensure that it is printed into hand bill in a timely fashion.

She suggested that all political institutions that are party to the aforementioned MoU should take the lead in disseminating the content of the agreement to their constituents and publicize their support for the amendment of Section 4.5 of the National Elections Law.

She maintained that the Legislature should notify ECOWAS of the intent to pass the amended version of the Elections Law emphasizing, “We firmly believe that implementing these recommendations will contribute to a more inclusive and representative political landscape in Liberia, by empowering women and prompting democratic values.”

She stressed the necessity in passing gender quotas to address the historical underrepresentation of women in politics and promote equal participation. medica Liberia advocacy officer emphasized that since 2010, every attempt at legislating gender equity measures has failed apart from the 2014 amendment which produced a weak legal provision.

According to her, representatives of some political will compromise and play lip-service to gender equality and will have no woman on their candidate listings but reiterated, “The bill drafted by NEC has been formulated through an extensive process of nationwide consultations and by incorporating valuable inputs from Liberian civil society.”

This comprehensive approach ensures that the bill truly reflects the interests and aspirations of the Liberian citizens. “Therefore, it is imperative that the legislative process pertaining to Section 4.5 of the bill is finalized promptly, as it would serve as a crucial step towards fulfilling the government’s commitment to deliver tangible benefits to the people of Liberia,” she said.

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