Backgrounder on the elections in Liberia
Prepared by the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division
Thursday, 17 July 1997



Presidential and parliamentary elections in Liberia will be held 19 July 1997. The electorate will choose a president, a vice president and 90 members of a bicameral legislature. The inauguration of the new Government will take place on 2 August 1997, if a winner emerges with more than 50 percent of the votes. Should run-off elections become necessary, they would then be conducted on 2 August 1997. The national vote marks the culmination of a revised peace accord signed last August following seven years of civil war in Liberia and represents the first national electoral contest since 1985.

Role of the Independent Elections Commission
Under the Special Electoral Law for the 1997 Liberian democratic elections, from which the Independent Elections Commission (IECOM) derives its mandate and authority, IECOM is granted the power and responsibility for administering and conducting the elections, as well as formulating and enforcing guidelines which control the conduct of the electoral process.

UNOMIL Electoral Mandate
To observe and verify the election process, in consultation with the Organization of African Unity and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including the legislative and presidential elections to be held in accordance with provisions of the peace agreements.

Preparations for the Observer Mission's observation of the elections are on schedule. Medium-term UNOMIL electoral observers have been deployed to all of Liberia's 13 counties. These medium-term observer teams have followed the voter registration process and are observing the political campaign and preparations for elections being undertaken by the electoral authorities in the field. In addition, the Observer Mission has begun to deploy 200 international observers to observe the election itself. These short-term electoral observers will be recruited from among existing UNOMIL and United Nations staff members, as well as from Member States and regional organizations to observe the polling and counting of votes. UNOMIL's observer teams also work with IECOM and other international and national observer groups to ensure that there will be efficient coordination.

To ensure that technical electoral issues are addressed in a timely fashion, UNOMIL and ECOWAS have established a Joint Coordination mechanism to perform the following tasks: 1) to ensure that all operational requirements are met and that the process itself remains operationally on track; 2) coordinating the deployment, logistics, and security arrangements for international observers; 3) identifying gaps and needs in the electoral process; and 4) jointly certifying whether the election is free and fair.

Technical Assistance
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) are providing, in conjunction with other international organizations, technical assistance to the electoral authorities, ranging from material and logistical support to advice on election management, voter registration, polling, and civic education among other forms of support.

In addition to its existing mandate to observe and verify the electoral process, UNOMIL is also providing support to Liberia's Independent Elections Commission in the logistical planning stages and continues to coordinate closely with ECOWAS and the major donors in assisting in the harmonization of electoral preparations. UNOMIL's helicopters and vehicles are being shared with the Elections Commission to facilitate movement of personnel in the field. The Public Information Unit of UNOMIL is helping to provide civic information on registration and voting to the Liberian electorate.

Parameters for verification
In his report of 19 June 1997 (S/1997/478) the Secretary-General identified two main factors that will determine whether the Liberian elections are free and fair.

"The first is the creation of a level playing field for the conduct of free and fair elections and the second is the efficiency and credibility of the organization and conduct of the elections by the Independent Elections Commission. UNOMIL's assessment of the electoral process will be based on the following parameters:

"(a) Factors determining a free and fair electoral environment include continued security to facilitate freedom of movement and freedom from intimidation; the secrecy of the ballot; access by all political parties to the media, in particular to radio time; the credibility of the voter education campaign; the extent to which political parties are able to campaign in all areas; and freedom for people to join or refuse to join political parties;

"(b) Operational benchmarks defining the work of the Independent Elections Commission include the timely setting up of functional regional offices; the timely procurement and delivery of the necessary materials; the timely and successful completion of voter registration; the establishment of sufficient numbers of polling sites, properly distributed to ensure adequate coverage of the voting population; the security of the ballot boxes and other sensitive materials; and the accuracy of the count."

Election facts:

  • The parliament to be elected will be bicameral, with a House of Assembly of 64 members and a Senate of 26 members, and elections will be conducted on the basis of proportional representation under a single constituency.

  • A total of 13 political parties are participating in the elections.

  • The official election campaign period opened on 16 June and will close on 18 July 1997.

  • Voter registration began on 24 June and ended on 9 July 1997 after a three-day extension. The Elections Commission has projected that just under one million Liberians aged at least 18 years are eligible to vote. According to UNOMIL estimates some 730,000 Liberians have registered to vote, indicating that a high proportion of the estimated voter population turned out to register.

  • Voting will be held on election day from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Vote counting will take place in polling stations as soon as they close, in the presence of political party representatives and international observers.

  • Refugees will not vote in their host countries. The ECOWAS Committee of Nine has urged the United Nations and the specialized agencies to assist with prompt repatriation of refugees who are willing to repatriate to Liberia in time to participate in the registration and voting process.

  • Thirteen candidates are standing in Liberia's presidential elections. Attached is a list of the presidential candidates and their parties, released by the Independent Elections Commission, in the order they will appear on the ballot.

    (in the order they will appear on the ballot)

    Presidential Candidate Political Party
    Chea Cheapoo Progressive People's Party (PPP)
    Martin M.N. Sheriff National Reformation Party (NRP)
    Fayah J. Gbollie Free Democratic Party (FDP)
    Harry F. Moniba Liberia National Union (LINU)
    Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Unity Party (UP)
    Alhaji G.V. Kromah All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP)
    Charles Ghankay Taylor National Patriotic Party (NPP)
    Cletus S. Wotorson Alliance of Political Parties (Alliance)
    Henry B. Fahnbulleh Reformation Alliance Party (RAP)
    George T. Washington People's Democratic Party of Liberia (PDPL)
    Gabriel B. Matthews United People's Party (UPP)
    George E.S. Boley, Sr. National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL)
    Togba Nah Tipoteh Liberia People's Party (LPP)


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