-Wants NEC punish those involved using new Elections Law
The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) says voters trucking and financial inducements have overwhelmed the Voter Roll Update ahead of the Special 2020 Senatorial Elections, and is calling on the National Elections Commission to punish those involved.
Oscar Bloh, Chairperson of the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) at news conference on Friday, September 18, 2020 in Monrovia said ECC has observed that the first week of the Voter Roll Update has been characterized by a breach of the New Elections Law which has created the environment for the occurrence of electoral violence, notably in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties, and has heightened unnecessary political tension in the country.
Mr. Bloh said the ECC has received reports of trucking of voters from Montserrado into Bomi, particularly district number one.
“One case in point was in District Number One at the C.H. Dwey High School with center code number 03071 and Klay Town Hall, with center code 03043, Electoral District Number 2. Another incident was reported from Bomi County, Electoral District 1 at center: Moses Vincent Compound with code 03075 where violence, harassment and intimidation disrupted the VRU exercise,” Mr. Bloh recounted.
“The ECC condemns the trucking of voters and wishes to inform the public that these actions contravene Section 10.1a of the New Elections Law which prohibits the trucking of voters and the practice constitutes an electoral offense and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months or both,” he stated.
He said the trucking of voters also undermines the intent of Section 3.1 of the NEC which states that: “A person may register to vote at a voter registration center established by the NEC for the place where he or she ordinarily resides.”
Mr. Bloh said the trucking of voters, which goes with financial benefit and other forms of financial inducement to mobilize support, are calculated attempts by politicians to unduly influence the outcome of the results of the December 8, 2020 elections.
“These practices amount to the commercialization of Liberia’s fragile democracy and undermine the principles of electoral integrity, credibility, and legitimate representation of citizens at the National Legislature,” he said.
According to him, except for a few registration centers that opened late at 10 a.m., centers across the country generally opened on time (8 a.m.) and had the required staff and election materials including the 2017 voter roll.
He further said that there was a challenge of malfunctioning of the cameras but this was not widespread. For instance, an ECC observer reported the late arrival of camera at the MB Massaquoi Public School in District 7 in Montserrado, with center code 30048, stating, “registrants were asked to go to the next center with code 30047 to get their pictures taken and fingers inked after being registered and or updating their information.”
He also highlighted an incident that was reported from Cape Mount County Electoral District 2 at the Sinje Public School with center code 12029 where the entire voter roll update was ordered closed by 2:00 p.m. by the NEC’s Magistrate, who instructed the VRU team to relocate to Robertsport because they had the wrong Movement Plan.
Mr. Bloh said this resulted into sending home the remaining registrants on the line that had either come to update their information or get registered.
“The ECC further observes that most registration centers lack uniformed security personnel and about 50% of the total of 115 reports received showed that political parties deployed agents to observe the voter roll update exercise,” he said.
In the ECC’s recommendations, Mr. Bloh said in order to minimize the tension arising from allegations of Sierra Leoneans being trucked into Liberia to register; the government should close the border with Sierra Leone for the next phase of the Voter Roll Update.
He recommended to international partners including ECOWAS, European Union, United Nations and USAID to organize a broad-based stakeholders’ consultation with political parties, CSOs, media, religious institutions, and prominent citizens to reduce the escalating tension in the country.
Mr. Bloh also called on the NEC to conduct an immediate investigation into the voter trucking allegation and prosecute the doers in keeping with due process of law, as this behavior has the propensity to undermine the peace and security of the country.
He also pleaded with the security agencies to be on the alert and ensure that all individuals arrested for violent actions during the VRU are held to account in keeping with due process of law, stating “This will instill deterrence and reduce impunity.”
Mr. Bloh further urged political parties to demonstrate tolerance backed by public commitment to remain civil during the entire electoral processes, reduce the use of inflammatory statements and call on their supporters to refrain from violence and intimidation of opposing parties.