Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bad Idea: Executive Wants to Appoint Mayors

I can't find much online, but BBC radio says that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf wants to be able to appoint the mayors in towns across the country.

[She] has been lobbying with the legislature to allow her [to] appoint local government officials for now because [she argues] there is no money for elections. [Opposition parties say] the attempt to appoint municipal and chieftaincy officials violated the Liberian constitution.

It's true there's no money for elections, but this is madness. It goes against the whole decentralization effort. Talking about it the other night, our French friend said, "They tried that in France, and that's when we had a revolution."


Blogger Té la mà Maria - Reus said...

very good blog congratulations
regard from Catalonia Spain
thank you

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that there is some confusion about what exactly she said:

All current serving mayors were appointed by EJS' predecessors and some of them are selling public land to anyone willing to pay -- in some instance multiple times. It will require anywhere between $14M - $30M U.S. dollars, depending on whose figures you look at, to conduct elections for mayors throughout the country. This is not to mention the chieftancy elections which may as well cost just as much.

My understanding is that she wants appointing powers for interim mayors to replace the unelected mayors appointed by her predecessors until elections can be held. Those who reject this feel that once interim mayors are appointed, she will make very little attempt to raise the money required to hold mayoral elections. I think they have a point. I think at the back of her mind she feels that the functions of the county superintendents overlap with the mayors anyway.

My understanding is that she will have no problem with immediate elections for all mayors if someone comes up with the $30M for the elections. The Legislature has not allocated money for those elections, by the way, in the current budget.

So the choices are simple:

1. Keep the unelected mayors and allow them to carry on as they wish since she does not have the power to dismiss them.

2. Replace the mayors with interim mayors possibly through some mechanism that requires them to be confirmed by the Senate.

3. Find $30M (I doubt whether this could be generated from the meager public revenues) and begin conducting the elections.

From her last press conference she seems to think that there is no way the country could afford $30M at this time and she doesn't seem to think that this is a priority for the donor community. She would like option 2 to, if anything, replace corrupt and inefficient mayors.

Since this has become a big political issue, the Legislature is not likely to agree with her on this issue on constitutional grounds. Since the money cannot be generated from government revenues for mayoral elections, the Legislature is likely to propose partial elections for towns with big populations and keeping the unelected mayors for towns with smaller populations. Unless the Election Commission gets funding assurance from other sources, I just don't see where the money will come from to hold mayoral elections that has any semblance of credibility. The folks at the commission are very particular about maintaining their hard-earned, deservedly so, reputation and are not about to conduct elections on the cheaps.

11:35 PM  
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