The main complainant in the ongoing alleged irregularities and fraud that emanated from the October 10 polls, the Liberty Party (LP), and the ruling Unity Party (UP), who came in as an intervening party, have lost the case against the National Elections Commission (NEC) at the Commission’s hearing office.
Handing down his ruling at 7 p.m. yesterday, the NEC’s chief hearing officer, Cllr. Muana Sando Ville, said the complainants lacked sufficient evidence of the fraud and irregularities to warrant a rerun of the elections, or worse: to cancel the results thereof.
“Having listened to arguments from the opposing counsels, the testimonies of witnesses from all the sides as well as carefully considering and looking into pieces of evidence admitted into our files, this hearing office hereby deny the complainant and the intervening party supporting its quest of a rerun of the October 10 elections,” Cllr. Ville said.
He said the burden of proof rests on any accuser in a given case, but as it has been demonstrated over time, the UP and LP have not provided the required evidence to support their claims but requested at each stage that the NEC makes available presiding officers’ worksheets and other materials used by the Commission in the October 10 elections.
Cllr. Ville noted that since the administrative fact-finding investigations began on October 27, the LP, UP and other parties rallying against the Commission in the ongoing case have failed to provide sufficient evidence of fraud that warrants nullifying the results of the October 10 elections, and subsequently ordering a rerun.
“By law, and in this case, Section 3.2 of our elections laws, an accusation of electoral fraud should not be presumed by anyone accusing the Commission of said grave national electoral offense,” he said.
Cllr. Ville said the LP provided 12 witnesses, while UP provided 16 at the first presentation, but later augmented the number to 24. “The first and main complainant’s witnesses, Musa Hassan Bility, Ben Sanvee, both campaign chief executive officer and national chairman of the party [respectively], testified that polling centers were opened later than the constitutional 8 a.m.; and that people voted in open containers in some parts of the country while votes intended for their party were given to UP at a polling center in Lofa County. They also testified that used ballot papers were discovered in Grand Gedeh under the earth while a lady paid L$240 at a polling center in Grand Bassa to vote; and that several voters did not vote only because their names were not found on the final registration roll (FRR),” he said.
About the testimonies of UP witnesses, he noted that they testified that the NEC’s introduction of additional lists so as to accommodate voters whose names were not found on the FRR was unconstitutional and alien to Liberia’s electoral system. “UP’s expert witness Jeff Bleebo testified that the NEC’s subpoenaed flash drive contains over thirty five thousand voters’ names that cannot be found on the flash drive they gave to seven political parties before the October 10 polls,” he said.
The NEC’s chief elections hearing officer noted that the defense counsel argued sufficiently that polling stations were overwhelmed with challenges due to a huge turnout and that queue controllers did not succeed in getting every voter at their voting centers because the voters queued even before the arrival of the queue controllers. He continued that the defense counsel disproved the complainants’ allegation of the Commission committing fraud on the basis of creating addenda, by making reference to the 2005 and 2011 elections as well as the 2014 senatorial election. “It has not been established by the complainants that frauds were actually committed. Frauds, as legal understanding goes, are committed intentionally and particularly so to promote or protect a particular individual or a party,” he pointed out.
Ville said it is not possible in any way that irregularities can amount to fraud, more so when no one claims benefit thereof.
It can be recalled that after the announcement of final results of the October 10 polls on October 19, that none of the presidential candidates received fifty percent plus one vote as required by law to secure absolute victory, LP filed in a complaint on the 24th and requested a complete halt to all preparations leading to the proposed November 7 runoff until the end of its case. The Commission, meanwhile, went on with preparations while it conducted hearings, an act to which LP took exception and pleaded with the Supreme Court to place a stay order on NEC’s runoff election preparations.
The Supreme Court, after investigating and listening to arguments, granted a permanent stay order on November 6 and called on LP and its collaborating partners to return to the NEC as provided for by law and wait until their concerns are heard and rulings are handed down. The aggrieved party, however, also has the right to take an appeal to the Board of Commissioners (BOC); and if the BOC rules and satisfaction is not derived, an appeal can also be taken to the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of justice.
It is against this background that LP, UP and their close supporters sat at the feet of Cllr. Ville, who yesterday nullified their accusations and denied them any claim to victory over NEC.
Cllrs. Benedict Sannoh of UP and Oswald Tweh of LP took exception to Cllr. Ville’s ruling and are expected to complete filing in their appeal to the BOC today as the NEC is left with only 48 hours to exhaust its 30-day period to look into election-related cases.
Article 83C provides that NEC has 30 days to look into cases.
Reacting to the ruling, defense counsels Frank Musa Dean and Alexander Zoe said they were happy that good is prevailing over evil.
“We told everyone that the intents of UP, LP and others supporting them are evil. They alone have held the country hostage for this while, without proving anything worth considering as their evidence against this Commission,” Dean said.
He attributed UP and LP’s battle to that of two students, one who studies his or her lessons and passes a test while the other fails to study and at the end fails a test but refuses to accept his fault.
“LP got an ‘F’ in the exam while UP got a ‘D+’ but is not satisfied. They have failed and deserved nothing more than failing marks. The Liberian people have resolved to disallow them access to national leadership and so they are angry,” he said, calling UP “a fake mourner.”
“UP is crying more than the bereaved LP, but they will go down the drains together as it has started,” he said.