For all intent and purpose, it appears, the referendum is dead. It is not even the subject of ongoing public debate on the just ended elections. The Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) Davidetta Browne Lansanah has been conspicuously silent on pronouncement of the referendum results leaving to public to wonder whether the results are on life support.
And neither has the public demanded its results probably because in their view, there is no need to whip a dead horse. Despite this, the NEC owes the public an explanation why it has not announced the referendum results.
From all indications, the results, according to insider NEC sources, constitute a virtual slap in the face to its Chairperson, Madame Browne Lansanah given her strident push for it and her strong reliance on Minister of State Nathaniel McGill for guidance and, as it appeared, instructions on how to proceed.
Sources say the number of invalid votes on the referendum was overwhelming and, moreover, voters for Dillon are reported to have voted NO to all the proposals advanced by the NEC, according to insider sources.
These, amongst others, could be reasons why the NEC has so far declined to publish figures of the referendum results. According to sources, fear of public rebuke and scorn are principal reasons why the referendum results have not been published.
Further, according to sources, NEC Chairperson had come under relentless pressure to change the results of the vote count. They claim that the manner in which Madame Browne Lansanah announced the results was confusing to the public, adding that it was as if she had never learned in school how to read figures.
Prior to the announcement of the official results, the nation had virtually been on tenterhooks awaiting word from NEC. The tension in the air was rising and palpable amid wild public speculations that the actual results would have been ordered changed by President Weah.
Officials of the ruling CDC, including its Chairman Mulbah Morlu and party stalwart Representative Acarous Gray, had publicly hinted on radio that a change of the results was imminent and would have been the case.
Sources say that in furtherance of this, the President had allegedly paid a surreptitious visit to Buchanan to meet with elections officials there to actualize the plan.
But according to sources, President Weah was dissuaded from pursuing such action by Western diplomats accredited to this capital including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN.
Further, according to sources, President Weah was allegedly told in no uncertain terms that the consequences for such action would have been very grave with disastrous implications for the peace and security of the country.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources have told the Daily Observer that in the view of the international community, far too much resources, material and human have been expended to achieve peace in Liberia.
In view of this, according to sources, the international community was not prepared to counter reckless action that would have plunged the nation into chaos reminiscent of the past 14 years of conflict.
What this suggests is that Liberians, especially leaders of the opposition, should always seek to engage this government constructively if only for reasons of sustained peace and stability.
Going forward, all parties should exercise tolerance and restraint and take their concerns to the ballot box,
Based on reports received by this newspaper, many Liberians had expressed the ballot box was/is a preferred option of expressing opposition to policies and actions by this government.
According to a well-known political figure (name withheld), street protests would have played into the hands of hawkish officials of this government who, according to sources, had been prepping state security for possible violent suppressive action against street protesters.
Meanwhile, tension remains high in Nimba and Grand Kru Counties. In Nimba, opposition politician Edith Gongloe Weh had accused local officials of transporting a pick-up load of ballots to an unknown destination while in Grand Kru County, angry voters were reported to have surrounded the local NEC headquarters threatening to burn the building.
According to sources, the local Magistrate is being accused of ballot stuffing in favor of the CDC candidate. NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah, speaking at a news conference yesterday, called for the intervention of the Justice Ministry to end the standoff between supporters of the ruling party and a leading opposition figure who, according to reports, had been leading the vote count.
Public opinion on this latest development suggests the critical lack of public confidence in the electoral body under the leadership of its chairperson, Davidetta Browne Lansanah.
An opposition leader (name withheld) has told this newspaper that the NEC chairperson appeared to have surrendered her independence, especially regarding funding of the elections and the conduct of a referendum alongside the elections.
Truth be told, this is the worst performance on record, of the conduct of elections by NEC since 2005. Aside from its dismal performance, members of that the body suffer from crediblility issues.
For example, an individual accused and found guilty of vote fraud in the 2019 District 17 elections; yet he was confirmed by the Senate to serve on such a key integrity institution.
Little wonder therefore why public trust and confidence in the NEC is appallingly very low.
These must be troubling times indeed for President Weah. However, it would behoove him to do some stocktaking.
As has been noted earlier, this President does have time to turn things around only if he can put his hand to the wheel, so to speak.
He will have to make some very hard decisions, some of which may come close to his heart; yet he must, or risk losing total public trust and confidence.
If the outcome of the Montserrado elections is anything to go by, it means President Weah has a lot on his plate. That is, if he genuinely intends to restore public trust and confidence in his leadership.