Parliament divided over IDP vote

The Liberian parliament is divided over a presidential bill amending the country's elections laws to allow internally displaced persons (IDPs) to vote in their camps during general and presidential elections on 14 October. On Thursday, opposition parliamentarians walked out the lower house of parliament after the bill was introduced.

Opposition leader David Saydee, who led the walk-out, said: "There was a mandate given to the legislators, especially those from the governing National Patriotic Party, by President [Charles] Taylor to pass the bill into law without following the appropriate channels". The ruling party controls 75 percent of the lower house and senate.

Saydee said the bill must first be submitted to the relevant committee for review and a public hearing conducted thereafter. "Minority members would resist any attempt for the passage of this bill into law", he said adding "It has a grave constitutional implication. We can not create constituencies in constituencies."

He also warned that the bill would lead to serious irregularities in voter registration and called for a census to avoid election fraud. However, in February the Supreme Court turned down a bid by three war-affected counties for the polls to be postponed if a census was not conducted.

At least 100,000 Liberians have been displaced by hostilities between troops loyal to the government and rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. A large portion of the IDPs are found in camps on the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia.