With just 11 days to the representative and presidential elections, Senator Prince Y. Johnson has accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of playing sinister games with the elections.
Sen. Johnson’s accusation was made during a press conference on Monday following President Sirleaf’s recent meeting with the chairman, 19 magistrates and some other officials of the of the National Elections Commission (NEC) at her private residence before her trip to New York to give her final address to the United Nations General Assembly as Liberia’s head of state.
Addressing journalists at his party headquarters in Monrovia, the political leader of the Movement for Democracy and Reconciliation (MDR) said “under no condition President Sirleaf’s meeting with the NEC officials could be void of selfish and devilish plans.”
“An intelligence from within has informed me that President Sirleaf has recommended a list of 5,000 new names to the NEC so they can be recruited to be in charge of the counting of ballot papers right after the elections,” he claimed.
Although Johnson did not state the name of the source of his information, he alleged that credible information he has received says that the magistrates received parcels and huge sums of money to work at the will and pleasure of President Sirleaf.
“We are all aware that some time back we, leaders of political parties, went to the Farmington River Hotel and signed a peace accord known as the Farmington River Declaration and accepted to also respect the Ganta Declaration, an agreement which is also in line with the Farmington Declaration. The Farmington Declaration was signed by all political leaders and approved by Madam President so that all of us would ensure that there is a peaceful democratic transition of power, a transition which no one will manipulate,” he said. Furthermore all the signatories to the Declaration want to see free, fair and transparent democratic elections. “That is our dream, that is our hope and that is what we envisage for Liberia,” said Johnson.
Johnson pointed out that he and his colleagues in the opposition block, as well as some members of the Unity Party, want to see a violence free election process during and after the polls.
“The intent of Madam Sirleaf’s meeting with those guys is unknown but it is not to be taken lightly. She has openly announced the name of Vice President Boakai as the candidate she supports in these elections. Therefore, she is no longer neutral. Having announced her choice, I think there was no need to invite Korkoya and others to her private residence for a secret meeting,” he said.
Johnson called on President Sirleaf to be neutral. “We are spending millions of US dollars to do all of our political activities, including campaign. Therefore, if we will accept the results it must mean that we are squarely defeated on the field but any manipulation from Madam President or whoever is in favor of anyone will not be welcomed by us,” Johnson warned.
He called on the international community and partners of Liberia to advise both Madam Sirleaf and the NEC “to avoid any ugly electoral acts that may threaten the peace of the country.”
Concerning President Sirleaf’s statement that she would like to see a younger generation take over the nation’s leadership, Senator Johnson asked, “I wonder how old she was when she ran for president? And if she decides to turn power over to a young man, then she should allow the process to be free and fair. If the young person she wishes to see ascend to power wins freely and fairly we will accept the results and continue to serve our country in the best way possible. Anything short of transparency, credibility and fairness will not be accepted and we will use all constitutional means to challenge those results.”
When contacted via mobile phone to comment on Johnson’s allegation, the chairman of the NEC, Jerome Korkoya, said if the public or media outlets mean well for the country, they would do well to “ignore triviality,” adding, “It sounds comical to have heard that Johnson’s so called intelligence has informed him that we at the NEC have accepted names from President Sirleaf for immediate inclusion on our list of polling staff, more so to make them presiding officers or ballot enumerators.”
He reiterated that the meeting with the President was not a secret meeting, neither was there any sinister motive. “We as officials of NEC, including the magistrates were accompanied by EU and Angie Brooks Center representatives. Even the deputy to the SRSG (Farid Zarif) was in attendance,” he said.
“Are you saying Madam President called them too to bribe them or demand anything in her favor? I have told you that the meeting had no selfish reason embedded. And what people should have known by now is that inasmuch as we are an autonomous agency, we are not an island. There is nowhere in the world an elections commission works in isolation of the ruling establishment or other partners.”
Korkoya further explained that the Commission’s funding comes from legislative appropriations with the support of the President, who is the head of government. “What I can say is that no one in this country should think that he or she wants a more free, fair and transparent elections process. Madam Sirleaf wants her gains to live beyond her tenure, and so she is highly interested in the conduct of a peaceful electoral process,” said Korkoya.
“You people sometime back overheard Mr. Benoni Urey making a remark that unless there are electoral frauds he does not see himself losing the presidential election. Are we saying he was right, too? We have to be serious here, particularly so when we all are aware that it is only one president we will have after the elections. There must and will be losers but their defeat will not come because we have a fish to fry. We at the NEC are committed to doing the right thing for our country, not just an individual because he or she threatens us or the President.”
Commenting on the excess ballot papers for the elections, Korkoya said he was taken aback by the Daily Observer editorial that expressed suspicion over the excess.
“I wish the Daily Observer and all other institutions and persons could take time and research on standards of elections globally. There is nowhere in the world wherein a national elections commission procured the exact numbers of ballots as per the number of registered voters. Why the suspicion then? We have to go beyond our own perimeters sometimes and search afar for answers to some of our critical questions,” he said.
He clarified that the essence of the excess ballots is to replace damaged or lost ballots. “What if a canoe carrying a consignment of ballots capsizes? What if an individual marks a ballot and realizes later before dropping it in the designated box that he or she had made a mistake? Considering all of these unforeseen circumstances and others even not named now, we don’t have to postpone or cancel elections because of any of them,” Korkoya said, adding that elections are expensive and the cost of postponing or canceling one is more than holding it in the first place.
All efforts, meanwhile, to get comments from the official spokespersons of President Sirleaf did not materialize as their contact numbers were switched off.