The deputy director for training at the National Elections Commission (NEC), Mr. Daniel Gegbeson, has condemned yesterday’s publication in the Daily Observer Newspaper alleging that he confessed to dividing invalid votes in Nimba electoral district #8, which is said to have given Rep. Larry Yanquoi an advantage over his closest rival, Mr. Saye S. Miannah.
The Observer, in its Monday (December 4) edition reported that Gegbeson, who headed the recount team following the October 10 representative votes cast, validated 218 invalid votes and distributed them among the 10 candidates who contested the seat. Because of that distribution, the story said, the incumbent Law Maker (Yanquoi) subsequently emerged as the winner with 17 votes ahead of Miannah.
Miannah was earlier declared winner with 19 votes difference but due to a resolution set by the Board of Commissioners of NEC in 2005 which states that inasmuch as a winner for a representative and senatorial seat is determined by a simple majority, it should be not less than 50 votes, the Commission ordered a recount.
Reacting to the Daily Observer publication at his office in Monrovia yesterday, Gegbeson said it is false and misleading that, as reported by the paper, he was induced by Yanquoi to give him more of the invalid votes which later became valid. “It sounds so funny to me, reading in your paper, that I was induced or paid by a candidate to give him more votes as the counting process went on. That is unbelievable because I am not cheap and cannot be bought by anyone,” he told the Observer reporter assigned at NEC in an exclusive interview.
Clarifying to the paper, he said the 218 invalid votes became valid when certain NEC vote counting procedures were considered. “There were marked ballot papers which had the correct intents of the voters expressed but those who counted them on October 10 nullified them and made them invalid. Some voters, instead of placing their voting marks in the given boxes on the ballots, marked the faces of their preferred candidates. This we ratified by election laws and considered them as valid votes,” he said.
“We used the guiding principles of impartiality and transparency to conduct the recount. And in doing this we had the party agents from Unity Party (UP), Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), United People’s Party (UPP), among others, present while we carried out the exercise and they all saw it that we were not in the wrong to have done what we did,” Gegbeson asserted.
He added that all of the 78 ballot boxes for the 78 polling places in the district were opened in the presence of all of the party agents and the ballots in each were recounted and marked according to the way they were marked. “My colleagues and I discovered from the recount that Rep. Larry Yanquoi who previously obtained 6089 got an addition of 102 votes from the validated ballots and this summed his figure to 6191 while Miannah, his closest opponent, received 6108 earlier [and] got 66 additional votes from the recount; thereby summing up his tally to 6174 votes. The difference between the two now became 17 in favor of Yanquoi,” he said.
He pointed out that NEC is a political midwife who cares about all the pregnant women (in this case political parties and individual candidates, including the independent candidates) without any discrimination.
“We are not interested about who gives who belly; what we care about is that everybody receives equal opportunity to treatment,” he said.
He also said that, at no point in time did he sit before Cllr. Muana S. Ville, NEC Chief hearing officer, to testify for or against the Commission.
The Daily Observer, in its response to Gegbeson’s clarification apologizes to him and the Commission for the publication which has caused them both embarrassment. The person responsible for the error committed against Gegbeson and the NEC has been reprimanded to ensure that the error is not repeated.