William Q. Harmon and Gloria T. Tamba
Liberians early yesterday morning trickled in at polling stations across the country for a runoff election to decide who replaces President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the helm of the nation for the next six years.
The Africa Union Election Observation (AUEOM) team has told stakeholders in the runoff to ensure a fairer electoral process that will ensure the will of the people is manifested, with the process culminating into the victory of a leader who is given the mandate to steer the affairs of the state for the next six years.
The head of the AUEOM, Erastus J. O. Mwencha, said though the runoff election has been marred by low voter turnout, the process seems more organized than the previous general elections on October 10. He lauded the NEC and other stakeholders for the level of improvement.
Though the runoff election was marred by low turnout, many had anticipated that the nearly 2.2 million Liberians who registered would have voted to choose between Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP-73) and Sen. George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC-51).
The runoff was suspended from its scheduled November 7 date after being contested in court by Liberty Party and others amid claims of fraud and irregularities, with it finally held yesterday, Dec. 26.
Citizens turned out to vote in high numbers during the first round, on October 10, and officials had hoped for the same yesterday, Tuesday, Dec. 26. The NEC said the voter roll (or Final Registration Roll — FRR) had been cleaned up in keeping with orders from the Supreme Court and posted at all 5,390 polling stations.
Speaking with reporters at the Calvary Chapel Mission in District #6, Montserrado County, Mwencha, former Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, said: “Liberians have never had a peaceful and democratic transfer of power since 1944 and this is an opportunity to do so. So we thank God we have had a peaceful process so far in spite of the low turnout which can be attributed to few factors.”
Giving an update on the work of the team in the country, Mwencha noted that the deployment of the AUEOM team to the country reflects the Commission’s desire for an Africa of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
The AUEOM head was happy with the level of organization that he witnessed throughout his visits to the polling centers. He joyfully stated that he observed a number of new developments yesterday, as compared to the October 10 polls.
“The polling stations are well organized this time. When voters come they can check on the walls for their names and so they don’t have to join the queues, which have made the process better,” he said. “Queue management is quite better this time around; and of course when you go inside to vote, identification now is better.”
Speaking to reporters in Paynesville after he voted, Vice President Boakai said, “This is a great day because it is a test of democracy. We have delayed, we’ve gone through the court process, this is what the process has produced, and we are prepared to live with it.”