– ECOWAS Team on ground to aid in FRR cleanup
As the National Elections Commission (NEC) sets December 26 as the date for the run-off election, the Chairman of the Unity Party (UP) Wilmot Paye has indicated his party’s preparedness to go to the Supreme Court if the appropriate steps are not to address problems associated with the Final Registration Roll (FRR).
In an unprecedented address to the media, perhaps the shortest-ever press conference of the Commission, (two minutes fifty-two seconds), NEC Chairman Korkoya called on eligible Liberian voters to “make the one sacrifice” by showing up for the runoff election on December 26.
He said the NEC is prepared to implement all of the eight counts of the Supreme Court’s mandate in a transparent manner and will keep all stakeholders, including the parties in the runoff election, updated at every step along the way.
“Pursuant to the mandate of the honorable Supreme Court of Liberia to the National Elections Commission” he declared “I am pleased to announce that the 2017 presidential runoff election will be conducted on Tuesday, December 26, 2017,” he said. “We realize that this date is immediately after Christmas Day but we call on registered voters to make this sacrifice for the good of our democratic country.”
“I am also pleased to announce that a technical team of ECOWAS that reviewed our Final Voter Roll will be returning to the country today (Dec. 12) to provide any technical assistance needed by the National Elections Commission as it works in line with the implementation of the mandate of the honorable Supreme Court,” he noted.
Parties welcome runoff date
Unity Party spokesman Wilmot Paye, in his initial response to the announcement yesterday, said “the UP doesn’t have any qualms with NEC except that the Supreme court’s mandate cannot be compromised. All that must be done will be done before the run-off, period!
But when pressed by our reporter to explain what he meant by the UP has no qualms with NEC, Mr. Paye quickly retorted, “it is not our prerogative to set dates for elections. We are particular about the process-the steps NEC will, should take towards the elections. If we are dissatisfied, we go back to the Supreme Court he emphasized. The party is meanwhile expected to have a strategy meeting on the runoff election today.
For its part, The Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) has also indicated that it has no problem with the date set by the NEC for the runoff. The coalition chairman, Nathaniel McGill, welcomed the pronouncement of runoff date and noted that his party is prepared for the election.
“We thank our fellow Liberians that even though there are difficult times, they have maintained their resilience and steadfastness. We call on them to use Christmas Day as a day of reflection for the following day, which is set for the runoff election,” McGill said.
Concerning the Final Registration Roll(FRR), which has been the subject of much controversy, McGill said his coalition is hopeful that the Commission, with the assistance from the ECOWAS technical team, will clean up the FRR before Election Day. “We are ever ready to go to the polls. Our people have suffered so much and they are even still suffering under the UP leadership. Enough is enough and that will be demonstrated at the polls on December 26 as all votes are cast to decide the right course for the country,” he said.
“The Supreme Court did not say the FRR must be cleaned before NEC announces the runoff date. NEC is doing the right thing by allowing the runoff election be held before the expiration of President Sirleaf’s tenure. Remember we are strongly against any attempt to call for an interim government in this country,” he said.
But diplomatic and political observers in Monrovia say despite lofty pronouncements by NEC chairman Korkoya about respect for transparency and deference to the Supreme Court, they find it strange that copies of the FRR were not availed to the parties for scrutiny despite their request at the meeting. Such a development, they contend, is troubling and it creates suspicion and rends to undermine trust and confidence in the process.
Korkoya has however said a team from ECOWAS is expected in the country to help the Commission in whatever technical way to handle the cleaning up of the voter roll.
Campaign declared open
Meanwhile, Chairman Korkoya has declared open the campaign for the runoff election. He announced that the two political parties are at liberty to commence their campaign across the country as of the time he was addressing the press yesterday. The campaign for the runoff will end at 11:59 p.m. on December 24.
It remains to be seen however, if the run-off is going to proceed as planned or whether the Unity Party(UP) will make good on its promise to go back to the Supreme Court if current steps and procedures being undertaken by the NEC do not meet standards of transparency s mandated by the Supreme Court.