Liberia: Interest groups spell out guidelines for elections

MONROVIA, 13 January (IRIN) - A three-day consultative meeting that brought together Liberia's 18 registered political and other pro-democracy groups have recommended, among other things, that in the absence of a national census a thorough voters registration be conducted in the presence of political party representatives.
The pro-democracy groups that attended the meeting held from 8-10 January, included the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL).

The group wants the Electoral Commission to exhibit neutrality and tolerance in the conduct of this year's elections scheduled to take place in October. It added that this would ensure confidence in the commission.

To have tension-free elections, they recommended also that the electoral process be policed by constitutional security agencies. This would rule out the involvement of the presidential elite guard unit, the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU)which many Liberians said was not created by a legislative enactment. The ATU was created in 2000.

Other recommendations were - the on-the-spot counting of ballots at the close of polling in the presence of local and international observers, as well as the equiping of the state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System where all political parties should have equal access to the airwaves.

The political parties and pro-democracy groups also called for gender representation in the commission's membership where a female would be appointed as one of its commissioners.

Meanwhile, Liberian President Charles Taylor on Friday vowed to lead a second protest march against the United States government's policies against his country.

"Two weeks from now, I will personnally lead another peaceful march against the United States government's policies towards this country," Taylor said as he led the marchers of the first anti-US policy demonstration at his palace in the capital, Monrovia where they presented him a statement of loyalty and support. Taylor had announced the holding of these marches in late December.

"Even in America, American citizens demonstrate against their government's policies and this does not mean they hate the government," he added.

He urged Liberians to stage more of such anti-US policy demonstrations until "the US government can intervene and end the Liberian conflict as other world powers France is doing now in La Cote D'Ivoire".

He expressed frustration over the Washington's support of the rebels of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) who have been fighting his government since 1998, a war Taylor said has continued to claim the lives of innocent Liberians and caused massive suffering.

The US embassy in Monrovia has denied the accusation saying that the US does not support violence against the Liberian government.


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