Can the NEC Be Trusted to Deliver Fair, Impartial and Credible Election Results? QUESTION!

The Lofa County Senatorial by-elections is now history. From all indications, it appears that the Unity Party candidate, Galakpai Kortimai, has won the election, although CDC officials maintain otherwise.

This claim by CDC officials that their party has indeed won the elections comes despite tally figures from the various polling places showing the Unity Party candidate Kortimai in a commanding lead.

So far, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has not yet released the official final vote count but, given the tally figures from the various polling centers, it appears the CDC claim to victory is unfounded.

However, CDC stalwart, Representative Acarous M. Gray, has apparently thrown a monkey wrench into the process with his call on the Unity Party to concede defeat in the face of what he called overwhelming support for the CDC favored candidate, Joseph Kpator Jallah.

This declaration by Representative Gray of a CDC victory, even in the face of tally figures coming from the various polling centers showing that the UP candidate Kortimai is in a commanding lead, is a sure recipe for trouble.

This is because of the likelihood that such pronouncements may be seen as a call to action by militant groups, alleged to have been organized and trained by the CDC. In the face of public outcry, CDC officials responded saying that the militants were organized and trained to protect CDC candidates during the elections.

In response to that development, opposition politician and Lofa Representative Francis Nyumalin declared that he would recruit, organize and train 500 militants in each county to protect their candidates as well.

Well, contrary to widespread notions that the election would have been characterized by violence, it was not. There were, however, reports of a violent attack against opposition figure Representative Yekeh Kolubah in Foya.

According to Representative Kolubah, the attack was ordered by CDC top gun Representative Thomas Fallah. Fallah, according to eyewitness accounts, was being accompanied by Police officers but they did nothing to deter the attackers. 

The Police is sworn to protect the life and property of all Liberians and all those who reside within her borders. To have stood by idly as onlookers as Representative Kolubah was being attacked clearly reinforces popularly held impressions that the Liberia National Police under the leadership of Patrick Sudue is partisan and selective in its approach to law enforcement.

Under his leadership, public trust and confidence in the Police has eroded significantly to the point where ordinary citizens could be pushed into taking matters into their own hands.

The rising incidence of mob justice and violent reprisal attacks by angry mobs on Police offices especially in rural areas has not gone unnoticed by the international community at large. This can be seen in various international human rights reports on Liberia.

While the nation awaits with bated breath the NEC announcement of final results of the election, there have come suggestions from some quarters that the NEC leadership is under intense pressure to announce fake results.

Reports from Foya say there were jubilant crowds in the streets last evening celebrating what supporters of both Kortimai and Jallah believed was victory. But up to press time last evening the total tally of the votes had not been completed. 

Meanwhile, according to latest reports, delayed release of the results is contributing to tension which is high and virtually palpable despite what appears to be a superficial calm, according to observers.

The hours between the end of the vote tally, the release of the final results and its immediate aftermath will prove to be the most critical. 

This is the period, according to observers, when joy turns into sorrow and vice versa as hopes are dashed or uplifted. 

Just how both sides are going to react to the announcement of final results remains to be seen. Will, for example, UP supporters engage in acts of provocation violence should that party be declared loser of the election?

Conversely, will CDC supporters engage in acts of provocation and violence should their party be declared losers? This is the worrying question and it is because such developments could serve to inflame passions and stoke violence that could likely spread beyond the borders of Lofa.

Of equal importance also, is how the Police is going to react in case of any outbreak of violence. Should the Police be seen to play a partisan role as demonstrated on previous occasions, it could provoke possible violent counter-reaction from aggrieved parties which could easily morph into something else with unintended but tragic consequences.

According to observers, there appears to be a creepy but widespread feeling of general distrust of the Board of the National Elections Commission. 

The fear is that the NEC Board of Commissioners, given recent developments, could likely throw a spanner into the works just as it did recently but was brought under check by the Supreme Court. 

The NEC Board of Commissioners had disbarred the UP candidate from participating in the just-ended election based on a petition from Musa Bility and Alexander Cummings, invoking the controversial Exit Clause 8.5.2 of the purported CPP original framework document.

The Supreme Court, however, struck down the decision made by the NEC Board of Commissioners, declaring it null and void ab initio and ordered the placement of the UP candidate on the roster of qualified candidates.

That decision, according to informed sources, allegedly did not go down well with the CDC leadership who observers say were confident in the mistaken belief that the UP candidate would have been barred, thus enhancing prospects of victory for their candidate who — as things have turned out — is placing second in the  results (unofficial) announced so far. 

Meanwhile some media institutions have already begun disseminating information that the results are too close to call, meaning therefore that anything can happen even if preliminary polling results had shown the UP candidate in a commanding lead.

In the final analysis, the ball will come to rest in the court of the National Elections Commission. But can the NEC be trusted with fair, impartial and credible results? QUESTION!