-Also craves party observers properly vetted
As the Liberian presidential election heads to a run-off between the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the governing Unity Party (UP), there are calls from many quarters for the National Elections Commission (NEC) to put its house in order in an effort to deliver a result that will be trusted and overwhelmingly accepted by not just the two contesting parties, but the Liberian public and the international community.
Irregularities were reported after the October 10 elections, which was welcomed by protests from aggrieved politicians. People have complained that the irregularities might have been caused by workers recruited by the NEC, and also blamed poll watchers that were selected by the political parties.
Hence all the major stakeholders, especially the NEC and the contesting parties, need to take cues and govern themselves properly for the crucial November 7 runoff polls.
It is in respect of the above that a Civil Society Organization, the Better Future Foundation (BFF), wants the upcoming polls to be entrusted into the care of qualified poll workers whose recruitment by the NEC should be validated by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
The BFF is a member of the Liberia Democracy Sustainability Platform (DSP), a pro-democracy and election monitoring group.
The president of BFF, Augustine S. Arkoi, said in a statement that the dismal performance of the current poll workers in the October 10 presidential and legislative elections, a process characterized by irregularities in some polling places, demonstrates not only their gross incompetence but also a failure on the part of the Commission’s Board of Commissioners to exercise due diligence in the recruitment and hiring of such poll workers.
The BFF also called for a thorough investigation to determine whether or not such “grave errors” as acknowledged by the National Elections Commission were made with any criminal intent to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.
Mr. Arkoi indicated that the re-run of the elections in Nimba, Grand Gedeh and probably Grand Cape Mount counties as a result of electoral irregularities in those counties, constitutes cause for the foundation’s call to probe such irregularities and the importance of bringing the perpetrators to justice so as to retain public trust and confidence in the National Elections Commission (NEC).
“A free, fair, transparent and credible electoral process requires the full participation of political parties and independent candidates at every stage of the country’s electioneering process, particularly their representation at various polling stations by competent and reliable individuals for accurate ballot counting and validation,” he said.
The group was one of many local CSOs that deployed observers on election day. Through its subsidiary, Youth Beyond Barriers (YBB), BFF deployed over 21 officially accredited observers and more than 50 civic education volunteers throughout Liberia on election day who helped to mitigate some challenges at polling places.
Those deployed observed the conspicuous absence of representatives of several political parties and independent candidates at various polling stations across the country during the elections.
The deliberate absence of competent representatives of independent candidates and political parties and instances of the absence of accredited CSOs at some polls, Mr. Arkoi, said creates an undue atmosphere for electoral irregularities by some unscrupulous poll workers.
He also made mention of the huge number of invalid votes, which he said would have been as a result of inadequate awareness exercises. “This underscored the urgent need for massive and intense civic and voter education for the runoff,” he said.
“We want the government and its partners provide timely and much-needed financial and logistical support to the NEC, and community-based CSOs for the conduct of civic education ahead of the runoff,” he said.
“We also want both the CDC and UP to conduct their campaigns in a peaceful and non-violent fashion,” he said.
BFF has been involved in an intense advocacy that primarily seeks to inspire national consensus building aimed at accelerating human security, respect for and adherence to the rule of law, promotion of infrastructural development as well as sustaining democratic governance in the country and the sub-region.
Other challenges that overwhelmed the October 10 elections as flagged by the BFF in its statement includes the late arrival of election materials to some polling centers, voters’ identification numbers, late commencement and closure of the voting process and counting, as well as the apparent inability of some of NEC polling officers to educate and or guide voters.
BFF has described as unfortunate the gross lack of infrastructure in the country to the extent that some of the facilities that played host to the presidential and legislative elections were unfit to serve the mass turnout, leaving many registered voters particularly pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, physically challenged among others totally disenfranchised.
BFF has, meanwhile, applauded the NEC magistrates and senior staff for the professional and impartial manner in which they addressed grievances of political parties during the tallying process at the SKD Sports Complex in Monrovia.