Calls for runoff, not rerun
Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper has described as “unnecessary” the Supreme Court’s recent action ordering a stay on the scheduled November 7 runoff to the presidential poll between Vice President Joseph N. Boakai and Senator George Manneh Weah.
In an interview with Senator Cooper at his Capitol Building office on Tuesday, he observed that Article 83 of the Constitution of Liberia, which exclusively deals with electoral matters, did not give room to a stay order on the election, as per the ruling in favor of the Liberty Party’s prohibition plea.
“Article 83 did not state that you must place a stay on the electoral process. The hearing into the complaint of fraud and irregularities should have continued, while at the same time the National Elections Commission continued with preparations for the runoff simultaneously. If it found out that there were material evidence of massive fraud and irregularities that would have cheated that person (party) out of the vote and changed his position, then there would have been a cause for nullification,” Senator Cooper asserted.
Senator Cooper, who participated in the October 10 elections as an Independent candidate, emphasized that the Supreme Court should have allowed the process to go on “and subsequent to the runoff, the Constitution gives the right to nullify if it is found that the fraud and irregularities were so massive that [they] caused another person to lose.”
He argued that his former party – the UP, was not in compliance with the seven days time frame stipulated to file a complaint, unlike Liberty Party which fully complied. “NEC should never have permitted UP to conjoin with LP in their complaint, and the NEC should have stood its ground.”
Instead of ruling for a stay order on the runoff, he said: “The Supreme Court should have asked the NEC to expeditiously move with LP’s grievances, while the process continued.”
Senator Cooper, who received a little over 10,000 of the total votes cast, said he also observed that both presidential and legislative candidates did not attach “sufficient seriousness to ensuring representation at polling centers,” which he said would have given them sufficient proof in the case of a complaint.
The former chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Works observed that the “cloud of uncertainty hanging over Liberia has placed our economy in a grave situation, which is mainly affecting the poor people, with commerce and trade reduced to nothing; while revenue collection for government to function has beendrastically reduced.”
The outspoken lawmaker cautiously welcomed the ongoing legal process before the Supreme Court but called for a ruling that will favor a runoff. “I don’t think there was anything material enough to change Liberty Party to second or first place; I don’t think they have anything in evidence to change anything, so why hold the Liberian people hostage? So I hope the Supreme Court in its wisdom will listen to the result and let us go for the runoff.”
It may be recalled that Senator Cooper in a letter dated June 19, requested the Liberian Senate to cite the chairman of the NEC, Jerome Korkoya, to appear before the plenary on Thursday, June 22, to answer to concerns and complaints of massive irregularities in the final voter registration roll which was then on display throughout the country.
In his letter, Senator Cooper reminded his colleagues that it was their duty to ensure that the electoral process is not flawed, and that “we hold a free and fair election without violence and without questions regarding the validity of the outcomes.”
During Korkoya’s subsequent appearance at plenary, he assured that names and photos of all legally registered Liberians would be on the final registration roll, and assured lawmakers that there was no need for alarm.
The then embattled NEC boss reminded the Senators that his commission had resolved to conduct one of the best elections in recent history, and said what was obtaining with regard to the voter registration exhibition did not amount to massive irregularities, as was perceived by some citizens.
Chairman Korkoya asserted that the most important component of every election worldwide is getting voters registered, because if there is a problem with voter registration, it is likely the election process will have a problem, and assured that what was obtaining was not unique to Liberia. “Elections the world over are never one hundred percent problem-free, but we assure the citizenry that we will do everything to try to avoid errors that can undermine the credibility of the process,” he said.
During the marathon hearing attended by 21 Senators, Korkoya disclosed that the commission had so far received 33,000 complaints from individuals whose names or photos did not appear on the registration roll, but clarified that although their names did not officially appear on the list, the commission’s data had already made the necessary corrections.
He maintained that his recent statement assuring that legally registered Liberians in possession of voter ID cards whose names were not on the voter roll will be allowed to vote “was made because it was not a major issue that could not be corrected; and let me emphasize that you will get nothing short of free, fair, transparent and credible elections. There is no problem that cannot be resolved.”