For a possible third time since multi-party elections were restored, Liberians will be revisiting the polls to decide on who becomes the country’s next president in a run-off presidential election between the two candidates who have obtained the most number of votes from the October 10 polls.
The two candidates with most of the votes so far have not been able to secure 50%+1. So far the top opposition contender, George Manneh Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), has secured 572,453 votes, which amounts to 39.0% of the 1,550,923 votes already tallied across the country. Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP), trails behind Weah with 427,550 votes, 29.1% of the national tally so far.
And with the The National Elections Commission (NEC) having tallied 95.6% of all votes cast on October 10, it is quite unavoidable that a run-off election will ensue.
Weah is contesting as a presidential candidate for the third time since the end of the 14-year Liberian civil war in 2003.
According to the Liberian Constitution, the President and Vice President must receive an absolute majority of the votes in order to win the election. An absolute majority means that the candidate must receive fifty percent plus one (50%+1) of all valid votes cast. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, then there will be a run-off election between the two candidates who received the most votes.
So as it is becoming evident and since neither of the leading presidential candidates (Weah & Boakai) has or could acquire 50%+1 votes, the NEC is mandated by Article 83 (b) of the Liberian Constitution to conduct a run-off to determine the next President of Liberia.
Meanwhile Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP), Ex-Coca-Cola executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and Sen. Prince Yormie Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) are trailing in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively, and will not be qualified to participate in the run-off as a candidate. Each of them, however, has significant number of devoted voters who they could encourage to vote in favor of either of the two top in the run-off.
Brumskine has so far received 144,359 votes (9.8%), while Cummings has received 104,127 votes (7.1%) and PYJ gets 102,564 votes (7.0%).
According to Article 83(b) of the Liberian Constitution, a runoff election is held within two weeks following the announcement of the results of the ballots cast in the first round of the presidential election. The NEC, by the same law, has until October 25 to announce the final results of the first round of voting and the possible run-off.
Role of other parties not contesting the run-off
All political parties, even if they are not participating in the run-off, have a stake in the electoral process. Their accredited representatives may monitor the election to ensure that it is free, fair and transparent. Also, political parties that are not contesting the run-off may encourage their members who are registered voters to participate in the election by voting for a preferred candidate between the two leading candidates.
Party representatives may witness every process at the polling place except the act of a voter recording his or her vote. Inside the place, representatives may not communicate with voters in any way.
During polling, the party or candidate’s representatives for the run-off election are allowed to stand to witness the polls from a visible position.
This step is to ensure the transparency of the process by allowing a party or a candidate representatives to observe the process of identification of the voter in the Final Registered Roll (FRR).
Run-off campaign period
The campaign period for the possible run-off election shall commence on the day following the announcement of the final results, but the NEC may announce the results earlier and the campaign shall end 24 hours before Election Day. Campaign guidelines issued by the NEC for the October 10 elections remain in effect; parties and their supporters must campaign in compliance with these guidelines and regulations.
What regulates campaign expenditures?
Campaign expenditure limits set forth in the 1986 New Elections Law as amended by the 2004 Electoral Reform Law shall include the additional campaign period for the run-off Election.
As amended in Section 13 of the Campaign Finance Regulations, the post-election campaign finance report for candidates contesting the run-off Election shall be submitted fifteen (15) days after the official results of the run-off election are announced.