Approximately 2.1 million Liberians have registered to vote in the upcoming October 2017 presidential and legislative elections, according to provisional results. Almost half of those registered are women.
Voter registration was conducted between 1 February and 14 March 2017. Incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has reached the two-term limit for presidential office, which means a new president will be elected, as well as members of the House of Representatives by the end of 2017.
“That 48 percent of registered voters in Liberia are women is a good sign of progress,” said Pa Lamin Beyai, Country Director at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Liberia.
“The role of women is crucial in post-conflict situations. They make a huge difference as leaders, voters and administrators. Too often they face obstacles in participating in public life and we need to remain committed to breaking down those barriers.”
As part of its partnership with the Liberian people, UNDP is supporting the National Elections Commission (NEC) to help deliver peaceful and democratic elections, in coordination with other UN agencies.
The Support to the 2015-2018 Liberia Elections Cycle project provides advisory, technical and financial assistance to the NEC through a USD 14.7 million pooled basket fund that has contributions from the European Union, Sweden and UNDP.
The European Union and Sweden’s support has been particularly instrumental in building the NEC’s capacity, and in voter registration, civic education and in expanding the space for women’s participation in the electoral process.
In advance of the voter registration exercise, 1,350 voter registration kits with cameras were supplied to the NEC. Voter identity cards issued included individuals’ photographs helping increase security of the electoral process. The kits were also supported with environmentally-friendly solar power energy sources.
Voter registration staff also received 9,000 copies of voter registration manuals designed with UNDP support. The manuals include NEC guidelines on how to register voters and how to run polling centres.
Analyses on boundary demarcation, voting rights of prisoners, candidate nomination and residency requirements helped increase legal certainty, and 19 magistrates were trained to improve their skills in dealing with electoral complaints.
Civic and voter education activities through door-to-door canvassing, town hall meetings and theatre performances reached nearly 700,000 people – 54 percent women and 46 percent men – nationally. 13 percent were first time voters. Radio stations that aired civic education content produced by the outreach campaign reached more than half a million listeners.
In addition, the NEC Board of Commissioners recently endorsed a gender mainstreaming policy that aims to promote women in its administration, in political parties and as voters. The policy, for instance, calls on political parties to ensure 30 percent of candidates they put forward are female.
UNDP also provided advisory support to the Inter-Party Consultative Committee, which includes all 22 political parties and the NEC, to develop a memorandum of understanding to promote dialogue and agree how to address any upcoming issues.
At the request of the political parties, UNDP also provided expertise to help craft a resolution that all 22 parties signed, committing them to promote peaceful elections.