Women organizations in Monrovia and beyond have petitioned the National Elections Commission (NEC) to hold political parties accountable in line with the May 11 memorandum of understanding they signed.
Madam Beatrice Newland read the petition statement on behalf of the women group at the NEC office in Sinkor, a suburb of Monrovia Monday, 10 July 2023.
Madam Newland said the women groups in Liberia are very concerned about the low level of women aspirants who have completed their candidate registration process with the NEC.
She called on political parties to implement the MOU they signed with the NEC on Section 4.5 of the Elections Law of Liberia.
Referencing official updates released by the NEC as of 10 July 2023, Madam Newland said appallingly, only 85 (15.9%) of the 533 aspirants who have registered to contest in the October 2023 legislative elections are women.
According to her, about 25 political parties including coalitions have signed the MOU committing to have not less than 30% women on their candidate lists.
In addition, she said some political parties set voluntary candidate quotas of 40%. According to her, the MOU was necessary in the absence of the electoral reform bill which had a mandatory 30% quota and fines for non-compliance. “This will be the third time in Liberia’s democratic dispensation that reforms for equal participation do not get to be signed into law ahead of elections,” Madam Newland said. She continued that Liberian women have expressed interest in legal and policy reform to advance women’s political participation for more than 20 years.
However, she noted that women have been continually let down by elected officials and political parties, who do not serve their interests.
“Political parties have continually failed to endeavor to ensure that not less than 30% are on their list,” she added. She recalled that between 2005 and 2015, not a single party met the 30%.
Madam Newland lamented that the NEC has been unsuccessful in holding political parties accountable or compelling them to provide evidence of compliance or programs aimed at fulfilling this requirement.
“This is unacceptable within a democracy, especially considering that women comprise half of the population,” she warned.
She reminded the NEC that ahead of the 2023 elections, it is crucial to break away from business as usual and take significant steps towards promoting women’s political participation.
For her part, Madam Hawa Jembell, the Program Manager and Acting Executive Director narrated that political parties have continually demonstrated that they do not have any interest in strengthening their internal democracy and promoting equal political participation.
Additionally, she said the persistent trend of a declining proportion of women’s inclusion on the candidate rosters of political parties signals a lack of progress in that area.