Electoral/Political Party Reform: Accra Peace Agreement

ARTICLE XVIII: ELECTORAL REFORM

1. The Parties agree that the present electoral system in Liberia shall be reformed.

2. (a) In this regard and amongst other measures that may be undertaken, the National Elections Commission (NEC) shall be reconstituted and shall be independent. It shall operate in conformity with UN standards, in order to ensure that the rights and interests of Liberians are guaranteed, and that the elections are organized in a manner that is acceptable to all.

(b) Appointments to the NEC shall be made by the Chairman with the advice and consent of the NTLA within three months from the entry into force of this Agreement. It shall be composed of men and women of integrity.

ARTICLE IX: ORGANISATION OF ELECTIONS

1. The Parties agree that, given the present circumstances, and until appropriate conditions are met, the Presidential and General elections scheduled for October, 2003 shall be postponed.

2. National elections shall be conducted no later than October, 2005.

3. In order to create appropriate conditions for elections, a re-demarcation of constituencies shall be carried out in order to take account of newly created Counties.

4. (a) The Parties agree that the Transitional Government provided for in this Agreement shall request the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS and other members of the International Community as appropriate, to jointly conduct, monitor, and supervise the next elections in the country.

(b) Voters education and registration programs shall be organized by the newly reconstituted NEC in collaboration with other national and International organizations under the supervision of the United Nations.

Implementation History

2003

No Implementation

Electoral reform did not occur in 2003.

2004

Intermediate Implementation

The National Elections Commission (NEC) and the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) were responsible for electoral reform in the post-accord period. The NEC announced in May 2004 that the 1986 Elections Law of Liberia would provide the guiding principles for the 2005 elections. Specifically, the country was to be divided into seven districts, each of which would be administered by a NEC commissioner. The number of electoral districts would remain the same (30) but the number of electoral districts each county held would change. The number of Senate and Parliament seats would remain at 30 and 64 respectively.1 The NEC also clarified several issues in the spring. First, all NEC employees were required to disaffiliate with political parties. Second, the NEC declared it would only recognize political party leaders elected at party conventions. This requirement was intended to help solve the problem of internal rivalries that several parties, especially LURD, faced.2

The NEC consulted in June and July of 2004 with all the major stakeholders in the 2005 electoral process. This included the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signatories as well as representatives of political parties, civil society groups, the NTLA, ECOWAS, the UN, the AU, and the International Contact Group for Liberia. The goal of the consultative process was to discuss the electoral system and the electoral law proposals, after which the NEC would submit a draft electoral law proposal to the NTLA for approval.3 In addition to consulting with major stakeholders, the NEC also worked with experts from UNMIL, USAID, and the European Commission to draft the electoral law proposal. The draft proposal for electoral reforms was presented to the NTLA on 30 August 2004. The major provisions included in the electoral reform law were as follows:

A) Article 52 of the constitution, which required a 10-year continuous residency in Liberia to run for President or any other major political office, was suspended;

B) The President would be elected through the traditional majoritarian system. In this system, a candidate must receive 60% of the vote, either in the initial round or a run-off election, to win office;

C) The Vice President would be elected through a simple majoritarian system, as would Senators from each county;

D) Seats for the House of Representatives would be allocated through a single, non-transferable vote (STV) formula that was intended to promote the inclusion of a large number of political parties.

E) The terms of the President, Vice President, and Legislature were to be shortened from six to four years;

F) The constitutional requirement that a census be held prior to the 2005 elections was dropped, and finally;

G) The 64 seats in the House of Representatives were to be reallocated, and the county (electoral district) borders were to be redrawn based on the results of the voter registration period from summer 2005.4

While the NTLA accepted most of the reforms proposed by the NEC in the draft elections bill, including the system of electing the President, Vice-President, and Senators, it held contention with several aspects of the proposed changes. The NTLA was opposed to cutting term length, the STV formula for electing representatives, and the proposed method of re-allocating representatives to counties. After substantial debate transpired within the NTLA and between the Assembly and the NEC, the NTLA passed an amended electoral reform law on 21 November 2004. The compromise bill failed to pass ratification by the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), forcing the bill back into deliberation in the NTLA. When an elections bill was finally passed by both the NTLA and NTGL on 14 December 2004, the proposed changes stood as follows:

A) Article 52 of the constitution was suspended, lowering the required 10 years of continuous residency required to run for office;

B) Electoral formats for the President, Vice-President, and Senate remained unchanged;

C) Representatives would be elected by simple majority vote rather than the initially proposed STV formula;

D) Terms for all offices remained six years;

E) No census would be required before the 2005 elections. Instead, voter registration rolls would be used to re-allocate the 64 representative seats. As before, each county would receive a minimum of two seats;

F) Registration fees for candidates were cut in half to $2,500 for President, $1,500 for Vice-President, $750 for Senator, and $500 for Representative. The Ministry of Finance would collect registration fees as government revenues rather than into the account of the NEC.5

  • 1. "Liberia; Elections Laws Will Be Guiding Principles - NEC Boss Assures Political Parties," Africa News, May 12, 2004.
  • 2. "Liberia; ECOM Recognizes Leaders Elected at Regular Conventions, Meets Political Parties," Africa News, May 7, 2004.
  • 3. "Liberia; Elections Reform Begins June, Commission Points out Critical Areas," Africa News, May 3, 2004.
  • 4. "Liberia; 'No Census for 2005 Elections' ... Says Elections Commission, But," Africa News, May 7, 2004; "NEC Wants 10-Year Residency Clause Suspended," Africa News, August 31, 2004; "Elections Reform Bill Undergoes Scrutiny... Deputy Speaker Calls for Referendum," Africa News, September 16, 2004.
  • 5. "Liberia; NTLA Finally Enacts Electoral Bill," Africa News, November 22, 2004; "Lawmakers Finally Pass Electoral Reform Bill," Africa News, November 24, 2004; "Assembly Finally Approves Electoral Reform Bill," Africa News, December 15 2004.
2005

Full Implementation

Early in 2005, the NEC altered the rules for forming coalitions and alliances between parties in order to make it easier for parties to do so in the hopes of reducing the number of parties on the ballot, which was at that time over 20 total. According to the new guidelines, alliances or coalitions must hold conventions to elect candidates before 1 August 2005; after that date the NEC would not certify any alliance or coalition.6 After the voter registration process was completed in May, the NEC published the listing of the newly drawn electoral districts within counties on 15 July 2005. In addition, the NEC announced it would require parties and coalitions to field at least 30% female candidates. However, overcoming the traditionally male-dominated politics and the within-party nominating process proved too difficult and only 14% of candidates in the October 2005 elections were female.7

  • 6. "Guidelines for Coalitions, Alliances," Africa News, February 8, 2005.
  • 7. "Liberia; Statement of the NDI/Carter Center Pre-Election Delegation to Liberia's 2005 Elections," September 9, 2005.
2006

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2007

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2008

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2009

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2010

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2011

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2012

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.