“Low Voter Turnout a Threat to Liberia’s Democracy”

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Frances Greaves, Chair, CSO Council

…CSOs Chair alarms

The Chair of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Council in Liberia, Ms. Frances Greaves, has said the low turnout in the senatorial by-election is a threat to Liberia’s young democracy and needs urgent attention.

Ms. Greaves explained that low turnout of the senatorial by-election was due to low enthusiasm amongst the citizens and should serve as a wake-up call that the nation’s young democracy is under threat.

“This is a challenge that CSOs need to reflect on and take the initiative to address the issue because, within few years from now, Liberians will be heading to the polls to elect 15 senators and representatives.

Many of the CSOs, she said, that were involved in monitoring the presidential and representative elections of 2017, such as the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC), were not involved in this year’s senatorial by-election. The ECC boycotted the elections on Tuesday after they challenged the process in court.

Ms. Greaves said she was disappointed by the low turnout observed at polling places on Tuesday.

“There is so much reluctance to democracy. We need to ensure that much awareness is created and that we develop a holistic approach to our democracy,” she cautioned.

Ms. Greaves further told the Daily Observer that she has seen citizens expressing frustration over the candidates that are in the race, especially those candidates who are sitting Representatives and are now running for the available Senatorial seats.

“The 2005 and 2017 elections had more enthusiasm than now. Liberians are broken and if we don’t take ownership of our democracy, then we will not have the right kind of people to move the country forward.

“If we must sustain this democracy, we must create more awareness so that we do not go back to where (war) we came from.”

Malcolm Joseph, a steering committee member of the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) , said the organization did not monitor the by-election as has been done for the past eight (8)years because it has challenged the legality of the process.

By law, he said, the election should have been held three months after the inauguration.

“ECC has been observing elections in Liberia for over 8 years, but we have decided not to observe the senatorial by–election because we have petitioned the Supreme Court on the legality of the electoral process but the Supreme court ignored our petition,’’ he said.

The ECC, Joseph said, cannot use an unconstitutional means to undo the constitutional provision.

“We believe that the constitution was violated and we think that  it was prudent enough not to have this election on the violation of the constitution,’’ he said

The by-election should have been held May 8. Several months ago, Jerome Korkoya, chair of the National Election Commission, and Finance Minister Samuel Tweah argued about funds to carry out the election, after the government said it did not have the money to do so.

The ECC wrote the National Elections Commission on June 1, expressing concerns about the constitutional breach, but NEC did not respond. The ECC took the matter to the Supreme Court last week, but the court did not respond either, Mr. Joseph said.

During Tuesday’s election in Montserrado County, there were hardly any queues at polling places.

In an interview with Daily Observer, few of the voters said they were discouraged, given the current economic status in the country.

Fatu Mensah, a vegetable seller on Benson Street, said she preferred selling her market than going to vote. She said that many of those she voted for in the past failed to deliver on their campaign promises.

“So why should I leave my business and go vote; the only time they know us is when campaign is around, so for me I am not leaving my market to vote anyone,” Fatu said.

Mercy T . Johnson, another market woman, said she has no interest in going to vote because her kids were home hungry and is more focused on selling to provide food for her children than going to vote.

“All the times I voted, what is the change I have received? I just voted this Government, the US dollar rate is killing us; [one] bag of rice we can’t afford. If we suffer and vote for them, when you need them the most, that is when they put tint on their cars so you can’t see them. Nobody should bring voting business to me,” Mercy said in anger.

Authors

10 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, the low turnout is a threat to democracy and sort of a warning to politicians that the people are ready to bring them to task!

  2. Unfortunately, when non political scientists not grounded in sound research of electoral systems attempt to interpret electoral data they usually misinterpret the facts given their lack of experience being trained in the skills of content analysis.

    The facts prove the contrary and I will challenge the author or the paper´s editor to do their due diligence by publishing voter´s polling results from Liberia since 2005 to the present date. You will find clearly that Liberian voters do not partiscipate in Bi Elections generally. Neither have the Liberian electorate been fond of second round polls even for the Presidential elections.

  3. Look, one of the ways to address voters’ apathy and subsequently increase voters’ interest is to seriously consider recall election as an amendment to the constitution. If voters are truly given some leverage to hold their elected officials accountable, not just during election cycle, but at any time they feel betrayed by those leaders, it would bring in play some confidence in the institution and increase voters’ participation. It is clear from this article that voters’ frustration is squarely placed at the feet of their inability to hold deceitful politicians accountable until during election year.

    If politicians are aware that their election to a given office and retaining that office is contingent upon their honesty and ability to perform the duties of that office, otherwise they can be recalled and voted out any time by voters, they will perform. All that voters need to do is push for constitutional amendment for recall election. Staying away from the polling booths will not solve this lingering problem but exacerbate it further.

  4. What has been witnessed in the Liberian senatorial elections nationwide is called voter apathy. Voter apathy exists all over the world. Example, during the presidential elections of 2016, most members of minority groups in the US did not bother to vote as they did few years earlier. Unfortunately in Liberia, poor voter turnout came about as a consequence of the lawmakers’ inability to genuinely demonstrate that they can be counted on as shakers and movers.

    The question is this: Is our democracy threatened as Frances Greaves suggests? Not by a long shot. The voters of Liberia are discouraged, pure and simple. The Liberian voters are interested in seeing a new crop of lawmakers who will prove to be the real shakers and movers of our time.

  5. Siezie Siefa,
    Thank you so much for the clarity. Some of our newly found statisticians are quick to draw conclusions without due assessment and analysis.
    Besides, voting is a right, which the individual voter may choose not to exercise. For example; during the 2005 runoff Presidential Election, the CDC called for a boycott. As s result, the turnout was very low, but that did not stop the process from going on.
    So, I see no “Threat to Liberia’s Democracy”

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