The chairperson of the National Election Commission (NEC) has identified hurdles the in the successful conduct of the second legislative by-election in River Gee Country, one of the country’s remotest.
Mr. James Fromayan said heavy downpour of rain, deploring road conditions and the long distance from Monrovia will serve as major challenges in the electoral process.
This is the second time a by-election is being held in River Gee — one of the country’s two newest counties that lack basic infrastructures including roads and public buildings — in the space of two years.
A senatorial by-election was held in the county last year, bringing to nine (including the pending) the number of by-elections that has been held in the country in four years.
All the by-elections have been the result of deaths of lawmakers (in a single legislature) which is quite unprecedented in the country’s 163-year history.
Releasing the time table for the electoral process last week in Monrovia, Mr. Fromayan told journalists this year’s by-election is being conducted at a critical time: when the rain is in full gear.
But beyond the downpour, the NEC Chief disclosed that many of the areas were inaccessible by vehicle due to deplorable road conditions.
Despite these hurdles, Mr. Fromayan said NEC would work with its partners including the UN system, the national Democratic Institute and IFES to ensure a successful conduct of the bye-election.
He said NEC would use helicopters to reach areas that are inaccessible by road, while satellite polling places would be set up to cut down distances of voters.
The July 20, 2010. River Gee District No.3 by-election is intended to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives created last month as a result of the death of Rep. Albert Toe, following a brief illness.
Campaign for the by-election runs from June 26-July 18, while civic and voters’ education campaign run from May 27-July 19, according to the NEC-announced timetable.
The number of registered voters in the district, according to the 2005 general and presidential elections record, is 7,035.
There are seven voting prescient and 16 polling places, Mr. Fromayan said.
Six satellite centers have been earmarked to cut down long distances in areas where polling places are far apart to enable more people to participate, the NEC Chief disclosed.
All 2005 contenders and political parties in “good standing” with the NEC are eligible to contest for the vacant seat.
Eligible candidates must have lived in the county for at least a year, be above 25 and be a taxpayer.
The entire electoral process will cost at US$253,000, and Cllr. Fromayan said the Legislature needs to see reason in setting aside contingency budget in NEC annual budget for by-elections.
“They have not paid attention to that, but by-election does not come as result of death. It may not be death; it may be incapacitation such as old age and illness,” he argued.