-As final results expected within 48 hours
The National Election Commission (NEC) on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, commenced the tallying of votes in the just ended by-elections from across the 17 electoral districts within Montserrado County.
Winners declared in the Monday, July 29, 2019 by-elections results will fill the vacancies created by the deaths of senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff, and District #15 representative Adolph Akwe Lawrence.
The Tallying process is expected to be witnessed by political parties through their representatives, Civil Society Organizations and the media.
NEC, however, disclosed that it would release final results within 48 hours. Provisional results coming from NEC put opposition candidate Abraham Darius Dillon in overwhelming lead in the Montserrado County senatorial by-election.
The provisional results from NEC also in the by-election for Montserrado County District #15 appear a bit more competitive, but with opposition candidate Telia Urey enjoying a comfortable lead over that of the ruling party’s candidate, Abu Kamara, based on initial results from the vote count at the various polling centers.
Opposition declares victory
Meanwhile, Liberty Party (LP) Chairman Senator Steve Zargo of Lofa County has told journalists during a news conference, that results in the possession of the LP show that Darius Dillon, endorsed by the collaborating opposition parties as their candidate, holds a lead of 20,000 votes over that of his main contender, Paulita C.C. Wie of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, the only female senator and the widow of the late Rep. Lawrence in a Facebook post said, “Montserrado County is no longer CDC Strong Hold, it has now been declared the stronghold of Liberia.” She said the collaboration by opposition political parties is the best option for saving Liberia from its nightmare.
Senator Lawrence further noted that a victory by both Darius Dillon and Telia Urey through a united collaboration will make both the late Senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff and Representative Adolph Akwe Lawrence happy in their graves.
”The people have spoken truth to power; let us see this as an opportunity to change our leadership styles and lead with passion and love for our country, and think beyond ourselves. Liberia has won! And the collaboration will hold!” she said.
The collaborating political parties in a congratulatory message delivered in a statement signed by former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, said the result of the by-elections demonstrate the Liberian people’s commitment to positive change, and their desire for better governance and an improved quality of life.
“Additionally,” the statement continued, “the collaborating political parties congratulate senator-elect Abraham Darius Dillon and Rep-elect Telia Urey for their irreversibly resounding victory, and we hope that these victories serve as a precedent for future elections,” the collaborating parties said.
The collaborating parties called on the government to allow the result of the by-elections to stand as recorded at the polls and concede defeat gracefully and immediately begin working on reconciliation and the nation-building process.
“To continue to strengthen the tenets of democracy,” the collaborating parties said, “people must continue to engage democracy with a sort of attitude displayed in Montserrado county on July 29, 2019.”
In a related development, Dr. Kimmie Weeks, an independent candidate in the senatorial race, on his Facebook page congratulated opposition candidate Darius Dillon of the Liberty Party, who had the backing of the collaborating opposition political parties. Dr. Weeks said, “let me extend my congratulations to my brother Abe Darius Dillon for his victory. As I said many times, a victory for one of us is a victory for all of us. Congratulations.”
CDC claims the lead
Mulbah Morlu, Chairman of the ruling CDC, told journalists on Tuesday during a press conference that reports in their possession show that both their senatorial candidate and District #15 representative candidate are leading in the Montserrado County by-elections. Morlu further said the opposition political parties and candidates are already celebrating “a victory they don’t have,” and has therefore called on all their supporters to remain calm and demonstrate a high level of patriotism during this period.
But Morlu’s claims however appear unfounded in the face of initial vote count results announced on public radio on Monday evening following the close of the polls.
Meanwhile, public concerns about suspected plans by the ruling party to change the results of the initial vote count publicly announced on radio earlier continue to mount, particularly in view of the announcement Tuesday by NEC postponing by a day, the commencement of the official vote tallying process.
It can be recalled that in the aftermath of the November 1985 elections, the Liberian public was gripped by similar concerns when incumbent leader Samuel K. Doe announced the setting up of a special committee to count the votes when it had become clear to all and sundry that he had lost the elections to Jackson F. Doe. The results were however hijacked and, instead, victory was awarded to Doe’s National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL).
The groundswell of national ill will, which ensued as a result, left nearly every Liberian convinced that Doe had closed the door to peaceful change in Liberia, according to political analysts, which eventually led to a bitter but senseless and bloody 14 years civil war (1989-2003).
Now, whether stakeholders, particularly the NEC, are prepared to be guided by the lessons of the past remains to be seen. From what it appears, this could be the beginning of a long drawn-out process with challenges to the results likely to be mounted by the CDC, which may end up before a Supreme Court whose standing in the eyes of the public, according to a prominent lawyer (name withheld), have since appeared to have been eroded by the fall-out from the Kabineh Ja’neh impeachment imbroglio.