By David S. Menjor & Joaquin M. Sendolo
The high expectations of Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, the standard bearer of the ruling Unity Party (UP), and Senator George Manneh Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) fell distinctly short of reality yesterday when just about a fraction of the over two million voters across the country showed up to vote in the December 26 runoff election.
The Daily Observer visited several polling centers across Monrovia and rural parts of the country that were practically bereft of voters except for the few who, unhindered, marched into each polling center to cast their votes with some reluctance.
Several persons — voters and passersby — interviewed noted that the date of the runoff election-December 26, being the day after Christmas Day, had its impact on the electoral process as many people went about merrymaking, even though they were advised by their respective political leaders, Boakai and Weah, to wait until after the election was over.
“I think today was not the right day for the Election Commission to call for us to come and vote. Yesterday our Christian brothers and sisters celebrated the birth of Jesus. Plenty of them, I believe had some fun and enjoyed themselves; so they are tired today,” Sidike Kamara told Daily Observer at his Muslim Solidarity polling center in Jacob Town, Montserrado electoral district #2.
Kamara also noted that majority of the people who should have showed up to vote were probably angry with the delay caused by the court proceedings initiated by the UP and Liberty Party (LP).
“What the people did too was not correct. When people were happy to vote on November 7 they spoiled the whole thing by going to court and calling on the court to stop the election until the investigation,” he said, adding that the court proceedings went on longer than it should have.
According to Africano Dolo of Nimba County, some voters were reluctant to return to vote in the runoff because their candidates are not in the race; especially when influential political leaders such as Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress and Charles W. Brumskine of Liberty Party left partisans with the option to make up their minds on who they want to vote for.
For his part, CDC mobilizer Lansana Findell said he was happy with the way the runoff was conducted, but expressed his disappointment in the low turnout of voters. “For this time, there is good order as compared to October 10 representative and presidential elections. I say a very big thank you to Col. Gregory Coleman and his colleagues in the joint security operations. They are demonstrating a level of preparedness and maturity as we go through these critical days of the country’s democratic process,” Findell said.
Like Kamara, he said the court process, which went on for a long time, angered the majority of the citizens, resulting in their expression of disapproval of the December 26 date set for the runoff.
“December should have been a happy month for many families in the country but due to the up and down thing the UP and LP were with the NEC, many people found it even difficult to find food to eat. The people are vexed and it is the reason behind their refusal to show up to vote,” he said, adding, that one of the factors responsible for the low turnout of voters was many of the people’s inability to convey themselves to places they registered to vote on October 10.
“Some people who ran for the position of representative in the October 10 elections but did not make it have failed to re-truck their supporters to the various places they registered them,” Findell continued. “One of them trucked over seven thousand persons in this district during the first election so as to vote for him, but he did not still make it. He lost the election and this time has refused to pay the people’s way back to this district so they could vote,” he said.
George S. S. Wuo, a Regional Education Officer who voted in Nimba County, agrees that many voters that were trucked to far off places by representative candidates to register to vote, cannot afford to transport themselves for the runoff.
Adolphus M. Kolubah, a presiding officer (PO) at polling place number 3 of the Salvation Army voting precinct situated at the Living Water Mission School around the Plank Field area in Paynesville, said the low turnout could be attributed to people’s general perception that: “‘Whether I vote or not there will be a president announced’. The people are coming but we are not challenged as we were on October 10,” Kolubah said.
Yesterday’s runoff election, which should have taken place on November 7 but was postponed by an order of the Supreme Court until all electoral disputes at the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Supreme Court were resolved, is set to determine who succeeds President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when her term ends in January 2018.
The longtime legal wrangling preceding the runoff may also be a factor that has caused voters to be exhausted to vote in the runoff.
For those in rural communities the harvest period has come and people are concentrating on their rice farms, a situation most voters feel they cannot abandon for an election. People would literally have to walk an hour or more in either direction, when deciding whether to go to their farm or to go to vote.
People in Glehyiiluu Community, Nimba County, said, “voting is for the enjoyment of others,” and therefore they cannot waste their time to go and vote, which would mean them leaving their personal obligations unattended.
In Garr Whynor, some voters complained that they could not find their names on the final voter roll though they voted on October 10. Despite their inclusion during the first round, the voters claim that their names were excluded from the FRR this time around, something NEC authorities in upper Nimba said they will address.
Meanwhile, polling started at 8:00 a.m. at most centers in Ganta, and there was no procrastination in the voting process unlike in October when challenges coupled with the overwhelming voter turnout caused delays in the process.
“It took me less than three minutes to complete my process,” Bill Tensonnon told the Daily Observer.