The ongoing legal tussle between the National Elections Commission (NEC) and Liberty Party (LP) standard bearer Charles Walker Brumskine is a very important historical precedent.
History will record it because this is the first in our democratic process for a presidential election result to be contested in the Supreme Court.
This does not, however, mean that there have been no fraudulent elections in Liberia.
It may be recalled that in 1927 incumbent President Charles Dunbar Burgess King of the True Whig Party (TWP) and Thomas J.R. Faulkner of the Reformation Party went into the presidential race.
In that election, 15,000 voters were registered, but after ballot count, over 235,000 votes were reportedly cast in favor of King!
But despite this grave and alarming this incident, Faulkner did not contest this electoral fraud in the Supreme Court but took a complaint to the League of Nations that the King administration was engaged in forced labor practices in the country. The International Commission appointed by the League to investigate the charge found the King government guilty of practices that were similar to slavery. That led to President King and his Vice President, Allen Yankee’s forced resignation and the ascendancy of Secretary of State Edwin Barclay as President of Liberia.
The ongoing legal controversy between NEC and Counselor Brumskine, we believe, is not meant in any way to suggest that he (Brumskine) won the October 10 election or came even second; but to examine his claim of “gross irregularities and fraud” in the election.
How is it in the interest of all? When Cllr. Brumskine first took the issue to NEC, some viewed it as a distraction, believing that he was frustrated over his defeat in the first round.
Even the ruling Unity Party did not comment until later, when it decided to identify with the LP standard bearer, having realized that “town trap is not for rat alone.”
Brumskine raised a number of issues about the October 10 poll, including tampering with ballots in Nimba County, where a NEC worker was caught putting ballot papers in a ballot box, leading to his arrest and prosecution. Counselor Brumskine also complained about the starting of voting at some precincts as late as 3 p.m.; and allowing people without names on the voter roll to cast votes.
If these cases are all proven, political parties, including the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Unity Party (UP), the Alternative National Congress (ANC), All Liberian Party (ALP) and the rest stand to benefit.
Who knows? The delay on the part of NEC to commence the process on time, thus resulting in denying of thousands of eligible voters to cast votes, could affect every party because those voters may have supported the contested parties to increase their points.
Who knows? The issue surrounding Amos Siebo, who was caught printing voters cards in his private home in Johnsonville during the voter registration exercise, was overlooked by all political parties, including UP. But this could create the condition for enabling illegitimate voters to vote. Remember, it was NEC Chairman, Jerome Korkoyah himself who once said that people with voter cards whose names were not on the voter roll could vote. This issue of these illegitimate voters cast very serious doubts on the transparency and credibility of the election. One of Chairman Korkoyah’s own fellow NEC Commissioners, Jonathan Weedor, condemned the statement by Chairman Korkoyah, insisting that that was not the right way to conduct an election.
Another surprising and even alarming twist to this Amos Siebo incident is that he works in the office of the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and that he was not prosecuted but instead reportedly allowed to return to his job in the President’s office. Did the President know, or has she not heard about this? What was her reaction, if any?
It was glaring from the beginning of the process leading to the election that most NEC workers were incompetent; yet this information, which reached Chairman Korkoyah through the print and electronic media, had no effect on him. Most of them did not know how to identify names by alphabetical arrangement and could not even direct voters to their proper queues. This was recorded in some international observers’ reports.
Many such workers have remained employed and the impact was felt in the October 10 poll.
Given these serious irregularities, some tantamount to fraud, it is commendable that the LP standard bearer has taken the path of the law to bring to the nation’s attention the need to pursue justice.