Ahead of the November 7 runoff presidential election between the Unity Party (UP) of Vice President Joseph Boakai and Ambassador George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), there are calls by civil society organizations for the National Elections Commission (NEC) to make adequate preparations to avert the inconveniences encountered during the first round of the election on October 10.
One civil society organization voicing this concern is the Better Future Foundation (BFF), a member of the Liberia Democracy Sustainability Platform.
Other international partners and even this newspaper, Daily Observer, have expressed similar concerns.
As was recorded during the first round, many NEC workers at the various voting centers across the country were found to be incompetent.
Many of them were unable to identify names and numbers in the voter roll book.
There were also reports of irregularities in ballot counting.
Moreover, there was procrastination on the part of NEC itself, causing some centers in Monrovia to begin voting as late as 3 p.m.
Another group raising similar concerns is the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC). In its observation, received by this newspaper today, the LCC among other things emphasized difficulties in identifying the right queue at precincts, names of voters on the roster, poor preparation of polling places, ineffective control of queues and alleged fraud and discrepancies at some centers.
Like BFF, the LCC also called on the NEC to address concerns raised by political parties, aimed at sustaining the peace we have.
The irregularities experienced in the first round have even caused NEC to conduct a rerun of the legislative election in Nimba County District 4.
Additionally, an overwhelming number of invalid votes were reported by NEC while announcing the results, a clear signal of insufficient voter education, even to guide voters on how to mark candidates of their choice on the ballot paper.
Those reported irregularities do not only bring to mind questions about the credibility of the process, they also lay wide open such accusations as Liberty Party (LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) have leveled against NEC.
LP political leader Charles W. Brumskine believes that these accusations are so grave that he has called for a rerun of the October 10 election. He strongly believes that he was cheated. Whether substantial or not, who can tell amidst such glaring irregularities?
This is exactly what we feared when months back in our Editorials we began urging NEC to be meticulous and transparent in conducting this election.
We observed during the voter registration that most of the recruits for the exercise were not ready for the task, as evidenced by their poor performances at the various registration centers.
Just as some registrars in Johnsonville were caught registering voters in a private home, so it was in Nimba County, where glaring irregularities caused a rerun of the legislative poll in Districts 4, with a petition filed in the District 5 poll.
When recruitment began in January, NEC gave the impression that it was hiring people on the basis of competence and qualification, but this could not hold as relatives and friends were brought on board by NEC officials.
This newspaper and some civil society organizations, including the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC), raised the concern and advised the NEC to take corrective measures to rectify the errors.
Despite the numerous calls, the NEC failed to take action to engage competent workers, but recruited the same kind of people—or worse—to do the job.
This runoff election is so critical that there is absolutely no room for any mistakes herein on the part of the NEC. We are, therefore urging the National Elections Commission to conduct the runoff credibly, efficiently, fairly and transparently, so there will be no need for anyone to cry foul.