A Path to Peace: Liberia's First Post-War Elections, 2004-2005

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Abstract 
In 2005, Liberia held its first post-conflict elections, two years after a peace agreement ended 14 years of civil war. Navigating treacherous political waters and facing both time constraints and citizen skepticism, Frances Johnson-Morris, chairwoman of the newly installed National Elections Commission, oversaw a largely peaceful electoral process that ushered in a new legislature and president. A former Supreme Court chief justice, she knew that failure to hold credible elections could plunge the peace process into disarray and send the country back into conflict. To dampen the risk of violence, Johnson-Morris prioritized building citizens’ trust in the commission and took steps to ensure the elections were as inclusive as possible. She established a vetting process to hire qualified staff for the commission and conducted a thorough update of the voter registry that ensured people who lacked standard identification papers could still sign up to vote. Johnson-Morris also oversaw the design of a consultation committee that put political party representatives and elections commission staff in one room, where they could share important messages and formulate unified policy. Ordinary Liberians and independent observers expressed satisfaction with the free, fair and peaceful conduct of the elections.  
 
Michael Scharff drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia, in July 2011 and using interviews conducted by Nealin Parker in August 2008. Case published October 2011.
 
Associated Interview(s):  Thomas Du, Senesee Geso Freeman
Keywords 
dispute resolution
election schedules
transparency
monitoring
Voter Registration
electoral management body
electoral violence
election commission
vote counting
post-conflict election
results declaration
code of conduct
observers
inter-party committee
hiring election staff
Focus Area(s): 
Reducing Divisive Effects of Competition
Elections
Critical Tasks: 
Boundary delimitation/districting
Election schedules
Election security
Legal framework
Poll worker management
Recruitment
Training
Vote counting
Voter registration
Core Challenge: 
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Country of Reform: 
Liberia
Type: 
Case Studies
Author: 
Michael Scharff