2017 Polls: EU Observer Team Lauds Liberians for Peaceful Elections

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The EUOM's Chief Observer Maria Arena (center) flanked by other members of her team.

-Says turnout was massive, stakeholders were outstanding

The European Union Elections Observer Mission (EUEOM) has lauded Liberians for not just turning out in their numbers, but conducting peaceful elections across the country.

The EU Observer team, at a press conference in Monrovia yesterday, described Election Day as calm and adequately conducted by the national electoral commission.

“Before that, the election campaign was nearly entirely peaceful,” the mission’s Chief Observer Maria Arena said.

Liberians mobilized for a democratic transition in elections, with the scope for legal and procedural improvements, she said.

She said that voters, with the manner in which the polls were held, showed their strong desire to be part of the democratic process by participating in their great numbers at the polls.

Political parties and the election administration, she advised, should keep their positive role to ensure that the will of the voters is reflected in the election results.

The EU Observer team leader also told newsmen that the elections were conducted within the confines of Liberian and international laws and protocols. “Overall, Liberia’s legal framework is broadly in line with the country ‘s international and regional treaty obligations. This framework constitutes an adequate basis for the conduct of democratic elections,” she indicated, adding that “room remains for legal and procedural improvements.”

Ms. Arena, also a European Parliamentarian, said observations on Election Day showed strong commitment from Liberians to cast their votes. While EUEOM observers assessed the conduct of the voting process as very good, they also noted that voters had to face long waiting times to vote.

“Undue aggravations in finding their polling places ultimately resulted in frustration and tension. Because of insufficient training of polling personnel, late divulging of polling procedures and inadequate guidelines for queue control, the voting procedure was very slow,” she indicated.

She also made specific mention of the notable effort made by Liberian observer organizations showing commitment to ensuring the transparency of the elections.

The Chief Observer highlighted: “Our 81EU election observers reported from over 297 polling places in rural and urban areas in all counties. Liberians turned out in their large numbers already early in the morning.”

The team also highlighted few biases that it observed during the electoral process. Though the campaign was calm, the EOM observed the use of state resources to the advantage of candidates from the incumbent party and a more general uneven playing field for candidates. The EU team frowned on the biased manner in which the state broadcaster, ELBC, conducted its activities.

“Although access to media was granted, there was no free airtime in the state broadcaster.

“Access to media and possibility to campaign ultimately depended on financial wealth, something that created unequal chances for candidates, and especially female ones.

“It is important to note that the results tabulation is still underway,” said the Chief Observer. “The EUEOM will remain in the field to observe the process, including the handling of complaints and appeals. We anticipate that all parties will remain committed to using existing judicial mechanisms to channel their eventual complaints on the conduct of the elections.”

However, during the period of its observation in the country, the EUEOM noted a limited number of disputes and a few in which mediation was successfully engaged. While the Supreme Court’s decisions positively contributed to inclusivity of candidacies, with the relaxation of the Code of Conduct, this outcome may have come at some reputational expense as many stakeholders alleged the court had been politicized.

Liberia’s judiciary suffers significant challenges for the efficient functioning of judicial institutions.

The EUEOM said it will present a Final Report with recommendations to the public at a later date.

Liberians have yearned for a peaceful election and subsequently a smooth democratic transition process since 1944.

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