Political Parties -Liberia Elections the way forward

Posted on | oktober 18, 2011 | No Comments

News monitored from Liberia indicates that The National Elections Commission, the body overseeing the process maintains that it is forging ahead with the declaration of results declaring Saturday that it is simply too late for any of the political actors to disengage from the process. The Commission will announced the final results of the poll to the public on October 26, 2011.

James Fromayan, the NEC chairman told a news conference on Saturday at the Commission’s Headquarters, that it was too late for the parties to disengage from a process that has been declared free fair and transparent by local and international observers who witnessed it. He urged those having problems with the count to follow the proper channel.

“Any party or candidate that has qualm or reservation about Tuesday’s polls should channel their grievances through the complaint process. All complaints received are being dealt with carefully and responsibly,” Fromayan said.

The parties expressing reservations include the Congress for Democratic Change(CDC) Grass Root Democratic Party of Liberia, GRDPL, Liberia Transformation Party, LTP, National Democratic Coalition, NDC, National Union for Democratic Progress, NUDP Victory for Change Party, VCP, National Patriotic Party, NPP and Union of Liberian Democrats, ULD. Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party and Simeon Freeman’s Movement for Progressive Change were noticeably absent from the signing.

Meanwhile parties contest of a massive flaw lacking documentation although they have promised to offer photographs and witnesses to back up their claims. The parties’ statement reads: “We wish to notify the Liberian people of the massive flaw being carried out by the National Election Commission in handling and reporting of the presidential results in favour of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Unity Party”. The opposition political parties further said that following the end of the elections they have been informed through their observers, including individual political leaders about what they are describing as the purposeful hand alterations of results by NEC workers, under reporting of counts at polling centers for opposition political candidates as evidenced by facts they have.

The controversy over the counting procedures of the electoral process was raised a day earlier by activist Aloysious Toe, in an open letter to the NEC in which Toe raised questions about the manner and form in which the preliminary results were being released. According to Toe, the process is creating more doubt about the transparency of ballot counting.

The controversy over the counting procedures also drew criticisms from the head of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Jerome Verdier who last week who pointed out that Fraud will be detected instantly if there is variance-the ballot counted are less than or more than what was recorded as vote casts.

“This is a check and balance mechanism that is employed the world over and should be employed now otherwise there is no control or limit to how many ballots will be counted or declared voted at the end of the day.”

According to Verdier, who says he served as a Montserrdo County coordinator for the elections commission in 1997, claims he raised the issue with the NEC Commissioner overseeing Montserrado during the Taylor elections but did not get a redress. Says Verdier: There was no official determination of how many people voted so they commenced counting with Charles Taylor leading until it got to a point of embarrassment when the ballots counted were very close to becoming more than the number of registered voters.

In Taylor’s election the results of 110 ballot boxes or polling stations were never counted, released or declared. What the Elections commission said at that time was “Taylor was in the lead with 72% and still counting”. That was the most we got to hearing of the election results of 1997. My NGO at the time monitored the elections and included this in their report which has never gained traction.”

Verdier suggested that opposition parties demand a halt to the counting and releasing of the current election results until NEC publically declared how many persons cast their votes on October 11, 2011.

Argued Verdier: “This should be the summary of all tallies coming from the polling stations across the country and it is a fundamental control measure, or mechanism that must not be compromised, otherwise the NEC will declare Ellen the winner in the first round and the process looks so “transparent” and “free and fair” as the observes have prematurely declared, making any post elections challenges impossible or unreasonable. This is why they wanted to take out before elections or during the process.”

It is unclear whether Verdier’s SOS to the opposition laid the basis for the action taken Saturday but the decision comes against the backdrop of the validation of an estimated 1,500 observers including the Carter Foundation, the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as an all-women group in the country to monitor the tightly-contested polls after campaigning ended peacefully last week. In fact, the AU observer mission declared that the countrywide conduct of polling officials was “acceptable and orderly” in spite of the late arrival of voting material in some of the stations.

The issue is also creating a buzz on the OnLiberian Medium Yahoo discussion board where on both sides of the aisle the interpretations appear to be divided.

‘No acceptable results’

Aloysius Jappah for example, is puzzled over why those complaining are raising issues over the same ballot that credited the win of opposition candidates for the national legislature is fraudulent when it comes to the vote on the presidency.

“The opposition could not unite in wisdom to go against Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf but have now rallied in folly to oppose the results of a process yet to see conclusion. So, it is not really a matter of the election results as a whole but the elections result as to the presidency. No result for the presidency would be acceptable to each that identifies the other as the winner.”

Mohammed Sheriff counters that the incumbent must listen to opposition complaints of vote rigging and immediately institute a credible process which could be made in the form of dialogues with the opposition with the intent of conducting some kind of recount of ballots from disputed precincts.

“Remember, Mrs. Sirleaf heroically rejected the results of the fraudulent elections of 1985. Now the shoe is on the other foot. It is time for her to do that which the military junta failed to do in 1985.”

But political observers say the dynamics of the elections are different from that of ’85. Doe was a brutal dictator falling out of favor with Washington. Thus, Sirleaf and many political opposition at the time could afford to forego their election to the House and Senate in protest.

This time around, some of those on the verge of election to the national legislature contend that they were not contacted prior to Saturday’s announcement by the nine political parties making unlikely that a swarm of newly-elected officials will decline to accept their elected position in protest.

Nevertheless, some like Moses Nyenpan in another thread on the Yahoo medium discussion board argues that the total votes cast should be known in order to know the percentage of votes count for each party.

Says Nyenpan: “I want to believe that this was a mistake on the part of the National Election Commission, but again no one should assume this is an attempt to rig or encourage cheating for whichever political party. Liberians need to be factual and not draw into conclusion that does not generally seek a purpose.

The purpose of election is to find a winner and whoever the winner is should not create confusion.”

“Violence is not a solution to election’s disputes. I do not know which yardstick should be used in case a disputes coming out of these elections since all possible institutions are government functionaries and many have not been able to find them to be credible.”Liberians need to learn how to cope with election’s aftermath because they have been witness of these violence (1985) and know the consequences thereafter which prompted the 1990s civil strife.”

Even amid the controversy regarding the counting of the ballot, the opposition is on course to maintaining control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate with the main opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change racking up new seats in the national legislature.

In the presidential race, Sirleaf appears headed into a run-off. With 4311 out of 4457 polling places reporting so far, the incumbent’s Unity Party stays on top with 511,796 votes amounting to 44.0 percent, followed by Winston Tubman of the Congress for Democratic Change with 374,610 votes amounting to 32.2 percent.

Prince Johnson of the National Union for Democratic Progress culls 136,819 votes amounting to 11.8 percent. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party has dropped drastically from 5.9 to 5.5 percent to maintain the fourth place with 64,380 votes. Voter turnout from all of the polling places reported amounts to 71.4% and the reported polling places accounts for 96.7% of the 4457 polling places across the country said the National Elections Commission, NEC.

A candidate must acquire a total of 50 percent plus one to be declared the winner. As it stands Sirleaf who still leads but have dropped few points will not attain the required 50% plus one vote to be declared winner. The polls now head into a second round match-up between the two top finishers, Sirleaf and Tubman.

The NEC says there are 1,162,729 valid votes; 80,504 are invalid votes of the 1,243,233 votes cast. The tallying of votes is taking place at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.

Debacle raising interests

With so much at stake for Liberia’s post-war democratic progress, the ongoing debacle is raising interests not only from Liberia’s foreign partners but also the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s office in The Hague declared over the weekend that it is closely monitoring election-related developments following the declaration Saturday by nine opposition parties to pull out of the electoral process.

“We will pay close attention to the actions and statements of the political class, and in particular to the presidential candidates, including after the elections. “Resorting to violence will not be tolerated,” a statement from the ICC warned.

Lessons from the recent post-election upheavals in the Ivory Coast remain fresh on the minds of many when incumbent Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power even though challenger Alassane Ouattara was recognized as the winner led to months of bloodshed.

The ICC is currently probing post-election violence in the Ivory Coast for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity after at least 3,000 people were killed, 72 people disappeared and 520 others were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions since the November 28 election that resulted in dispute.

While it is still a bit early to gauge how far the current fracas in Liberia will go, political observers see the opposition’s pronouncement as a signal capable of plunging Liberian into chaos and reigniting the wounds of war. With the NEC determine to see the process through, those looking to hold the elections at bay could find themselves bracing for trouble as the international criminal court monitors the ongoing developments.

AUTHOR: Shout Africa
URL: http://www.shout-africa.com
E-MAIL: news [at] shout-africa.com


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