Nimba County Electoral District #8 incumbent Representative Larry Yanquoi yesterday pleaded with the National Elections Commission’s hearing office to nullify Saye Miannah’s complaint against the Commission on the recent recount of ballot papers from the October 10 representative and presidential elections and declare him the winner.
Taking the witness stand, Yanquoi said although the NEC recount was not wrong, he should, however, be given the chance to continue to represent his people at the House of Representatives. He made the request on grounds that the recount conducted for four days – November 1 to 4 – has proven that he is still the choice of the people.
“At first, due to human errors my closest opponent, Mr. Saye Miannah got 19 votes ahead of me, but this time around, with the recount done, I moved forward with 19 votes ahead of him; it means that there is no more need to waste national resources to conduct any further investigation or electoral process. I am the winner and let it be,” Yanquoi said.
He noted that after the results of the October 10 election were announced he wrote the Election Magistrate assigned in Lower Nimba, where District #8 is situated, and called for an investigation into irregularities discovered by his agents at the polls, but was advised to visit the headquarters of the NEC and file his complaint to the Board of Commissioners.
“When I got the news on October 14 that Miannah was in the lead with a slight margin I became concerned and immediately sought out what could be responsible. I discovered that there were discrepancies from the onset of the polling process but because my representatives at the polls did not want any confrontation we did not file in any official complaint at that time to any concerned authority,” he said.
He noted that being a former employee of the NEC, he accepted the call by the Commission for a recount so as to establish the authenticity of his failure at the polls, in case it was factual.
The Unity Party (UP) candidate said the NEC’s call for the recount was in line with Article 83b of the Liberian Constitution. Article 83b says the NEC, as with many autonomous agencies of government, has the right to formulate its own regulations to be able to govern its operations.
It is against this backdrop that the BOC of the NEC in 2005 formulated a resolution establishing as simple majority for a representative or senatorial candidate who obtained 50 or more votes ahead of his or her closest rival.
The point of contention now is whether the resolution, formulated and used in 2005, can be applied to the 2017 electoral process.
For his part, the Election Magistrate in Lower Nimba said there was nothing illegal about the recount conducted in District #8, and as such the decision of the Commission is valid and should be taken as such.
Jaye Flomo, a magistrate in Nimba for over 19 years, said he received a communication from NEC Executive Director C. A. Lamin Lighe ordering him to work alongside the team from Monrovia in the conduct of a recount because none of the candidates obtained fifty or more votes ahead of fellow contenders.
Flomo said after the votes were cast, the NEC’s counting procedures were followed, but because of human factors, they were tied up by limitations and shortcomings, resulting in some ballots labeled invalid when they should not have been.
“We did reconcile, sorted and counted before the recording of the results,” Flomo said. He noted that since he became magistrate for Nimba he cannot recall at any point in time when there was a recount due to votes falling below the NEC’s current threshold. “There has been no need for a recount over the years of elections because the margin between the winner and his or her closest rival was over 50 votes,” he noted.
Miannah is represented by Cllrs. Cooper Kruah and Dempster Brown, while Rep. Yanquoi is represented by Cllr. Albert Sims; the NEC is represented by Attorney Cephaus Teewian.
The production of witnesses and submission of pieces of evidence were concluded yesterday by both parties and final arguments by counsels from each side are expected today at 10:00 a.m.
Rep. Yanquoi Refutes Claims of Inducement
In a related development, Rep. Yanquoi refuted media report accusing him of allegedly inducing a National Elections Commission (NEC) executive to favor him during the recount of the October 10 election ballots for his district.
It may be recalled that the Daily Observer in its Monday, December 4 edition reported that Daniel Gegbeson, the deputy director for training at the NEC, testified before the Commission’s hearing office that he was induced by Rep. Yanquoi to make invalid votes valid in his favor, for which Rep. Yanquoi received most of the 218 validated votes to enable him gain victory over his closest opponent, Saye S. Miannah.
The newspaper, however, retracted the publication in yesterday’s edition on grounds that the source which provided the details from the hearing misrepresented the facts and caused an embarrassment not only to the NEC and its staff (Gegbeson), but also to Rep. Yanquoi and the Daily Observer.
The Daily Observer said it regretted the publication and apologized to all those concerned, including Rep. Larry Younquoi, the NEC, and Mr. Gegbeson, for the embarrassment that the publication may have caused them.