The European Union Observation Mission (EU EMO) in Liberia accused the Liberian government of using state resources to finance their campaign activities in the just-ended October 10, 2023, presidential and legislative elections.
According to the EU EMO 12 preliminary statement released on October 12 in Monrovia, the campaign finance regulations are overall in line with international standards, but their lack of enforcement failed to ensure transparency and a level playing field.
The EU addressing campaign finance also said, “The stakeholders agreed unanimously that the lack of enforcement of the regulations by the NEC creates a sense of impunity. The respect for campaign finance regulations by the contestants is limited or poor. The EU observed significant problems in candidates’ and parties’ adherence to basic campaign finance regulations.”
Leopoldo Lopez Gil, Head of the Delegation of Members of the European Parliament, said the disproportionate spending on behalf of the ruling party and incumbent president distorted the fairness of the campaign.
He said, “EU observation showed an obvious disparity in terms of resources available to the CDC for the presidential campaign in all 15 counties in terms of billboards, posters, vehicles, t-shirts, etc.
The widespread use of state resources in the form of official vehicles and buildings was widely observed by EU EOM observers. Many appointed officials at the county or electoral district level were publicly campaigning in favor of the ruling party. In some counties, EU EOM observers reported that civil servants were pressured to attend the ruling party’s campaign events.
As there is no public funding for parties and candidates, election campaigns were financed primarily from private sources. Candidates used their assets and funds from friends and family, and some received contributions from the diaspora, mainly in the US and ECOWAS countries.
The Stage Media (TSM) contacted Ledgerhood Julius Rennie, Minister of Information, via WhatsApp to get an official response from the government.
Rennie said that as president, George M. Weah is entitled to state security and logistics associated with his office at all times.
“This has been the case with all Liberian leaders, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. This isn’t a violation of the law, and we don’t believe it gave President/Candidate Weah any undue advantage,” he added.
Rennie said, “The government is fully cognizant of the election laws and the relevant provisions therein regarding the use of state resources for political campaign purposes. That is why, as Standard Bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change, President George M. Weah issued a mandate to his officials at the very start of the process not to engage in any acts that contravene this provision, including the usage of government assets, I.e vehicles, etc. The accusation is simply untrue.”
Rinnie, however, requested the EU EOM to provide specific instances of their accusation.
“But it will be helpful were our accusers to offer specific instances; I.e place and time,” he said.
According to Rinnie, “Throughout his campaign in all 15 political subdivisions, the President hardly made use of public buildings – except for those accessible to the general public- including other candidates.”
The Stage Media also connected Eugene Lenn Nagebe, Campaign chairman via WhatsApp to respond to the allegation.
Nageba said the CDC campaign team have not received the EU EOM report adding that the CDC campaign has operated within the parameters of the law.
“We have not received any report from the EU regarding and if we do, we will respond appropriately. For the record, the CDC Campaign has operated fully and totally within the parameters of the law,” he added.
The Stage Media connected EU EOM via email to provide an instance of their allegation against the CDC.
The EU EOM in response said, “At the moment the EU EOM is extremely busy as we are focused on tabulation, but we will be able to talk to you and your colleagues with pleasure shortly to answer all the questions if you are interested in meeting us.”
However, Davidetta Brown Lansanah, NEC’s Chairperson in response the the EC EOM at the regular elections updates said “Before we went to these elections, we have the occasion where we developed regulations and one of those speak to campaign financing to see how best we may be able to know how much each party may have spend for the campaign.”
She said NEC entered into an MOU with the group called Integrity Watch, a civil society organization working to promote inclusive development and a democratic form of governance where there is gender equity and respect for the rule of law and accountability to analyze campaign financing. “I believe that from there, when those reports are available to us we may be able to speak to the issue.”
Boakai A. Dukuly, one of the NEC commissioners said that at the end of the elections, all political parties will be required to report access and liability by then, NEC will be able to establish if there was a violation or not.
Harold M. Aidoo, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Liberia confirmed having an MoU with NEC to monitor campaign finance and also agreed with the EU EOM that Weah’s campaign team used state resources to finance their campaign activities in the just-ended elections.
According to Aidoo, “the EU report only repeated what our report said.”