……Opposition political parties reject census report
By G Bennie Bravo Johnson I
Ahead of the October 10 presidential and legislative elections across the country, ten major opposition political parties have petitioned the government of Liberia through the 54th National Legislature, the National Election Commission (NEC), and diplomatic missions in Monrovia not to use the figures from the National Housing and Population Census to set population thresholds for constituencies and to reapportion electoral boundaries.
The opposition political parties include the Unity Party (UP), All Liberian Party (ALP), Liberty Party (LP), Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), Liberian Peoples Party (LPP), Vision for Liberia Transformation Party (VOLT), Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), and Rainbow Alliance, among others.
Article 39 of the constitution of Liberia provides for the holding of a national population and housing census every ten years to inform government policy decision-making for the socio-economic and political development of the country.
Also, Article 80 (d) requires that the census result be used by the legislature to establish the population threshold for each constituency and also requires that the National Election Commission reapportion constituencies and electoral boundaries within the republic.
But, addressing a joint press conference at the Unity Party headquarters and onward presentation of what they described as a resolution of major opposition political parties regarding the preliminary result of the 2022 census and its implication for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections, UP Chairman Rev. Luther Tarpeh said that they strongly reject the preliminary census result.
According to him, the National Housing and Population Census is bogus and fraudulent; therefore, it should not be given space and consideration in the country because it has the propensity to escalate conflict and hinder development. He added that the government delayed the census much beyond the stimulated constitutional timeframe, and the census result is also fraudulent and anti-democratic.
Mr. Tarpeh stated that they found the preliminary census report clouded with inherent manipulation of figures, especially with concentration in the southeastern counties of Grand Kru, Rive Gee, and Grand Gedeh, thus laying the probable basis to mar the ongoing electoral process.
“We, the major opposition political parties and national leaders, have resolved to do the following: we reject the preliminary results of the 2022 National Housing and Population Census recently released by LISGIS. We therefore call on the legislature and the National Election Commission not to use the figures of the census to set population thresholds for constituencies and to reapportion electoral boundaries,” he urged.
Rev. Tarpeh pointed out that the census, from the very onset, showed clear signs of being a failure on account of the poor handling of the process, superimposed further by claims and counterclaims of corruption within the leadership of the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
He asserted that throughout the duration of the census, scores of citizens across the length and breadth of Liberia were alarmed over the failure of the LISGIS to have them counted in this important national system.
Chairman Tarpeh further indicated that, in consideration of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on democracy and good governance, restraining states parties from effecting change in national or electoral law six months before a pending election and the Supreme Court of Liberia’s opinion barring the NEC and the legislature from making decisions with constitutional implications is unacceptable.
He, however, urged the NEC and the legislature to refrain from proceeding with any election-related decision, using the results of the national housing and population census.
‘’ However, in view of the aforementioned, we call on the National Legislature and the National Election Commission to proceed with the conduct of the 2023 presidential and legislative elections using the existing electoral boundaries. We also convey profound appreciation to our international partners for their unwavering support for the attainment of lasting peace and for their untiring efforts aimed at consolidating pluralistic democracy in Liberia,” he concluded.
However, upon receiving the opposition petition at the House of Senate, Lofa County senator Joseph Jallah, and at the House of Representatives, Lofa County district representative Clarence Massaquoi and his colleague promised to take the request seriously, describing it as a national concern.