We have 14 days to the October 10 elections and campaigning is already being characterized by violence. Separate reports about violence have been emerging in the media—one in Nimba County, where partisans of Liberty Party (LP) and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) clashed, leaving people wounded.
Another incident occurred last Thursday, September 21. A report published in the Daily Observer yesterday noted that supporters of Unity Party (UP) and CDC clashed, again leaving many wounded.
Police are yet to establish the names of those responsible for these incidents. But they raise alarm and grave uncertainty over how peaceful the elections will be.
Reports have indicated that violence erupted because one party did not want to see another party canvassing in an area considered its territory.
These violent outbreaks must ring alarm bells in the ears of National Elections Commission (NEC) chairman Jerome Korkoya and his team of Commissioners and staff as to how sensitive politicians, voters, and other stakeholders are as Election Day draws nigh.
Some politicians interpret the crowds they are able to pull as tacit indication that they have already won the election.
On September 9, when Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP) launched his campaign in Monrovia, he declared: “We must win this election, and we must win.” CDC leaders, following their earlier launch, also stated, “This is our time, and it is clear that we will win this election because it is our time.”
Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party (UP), impressed by the mammoth crowd he pulled, told his partisans and supporters that they only want one round, in order to save money, rather than spend it on a runoff election. Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) also predicted that he will win the election unless he he cheated out of victory by no less than the NEC.
Such wild predictions indicate how overly ambitious each candidate is to ascend to the presidency, and therefore each will be watching for the slightest instance or semblance of fraud. Supporters are standing by to take to the streets in violent outbursts upon instruction from their candidates.
It is not yet clear NEC’s reaction is to the recent violent incidents. However, chairman Korkoya and his Commissioners must take very serious note of them, and redouble their commitment and determination to conduct the election in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner, totally devoid of cheating.
There are, meanwhile, factors that are now raising red flags, causing people to doubt whether the elections will turn out to be what the Liberian people and the world are hoping for—free, fair, transparent and credible elections. Prior to President Sirleaf’s departure to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, she held a meeting with NEC Commissioners at her private residence. Although Korkoya came out to clarify that the meeting was not held in secrecy, as many in the public had perceived, there was suspicion that the President wished to influence the Commissioners to do things her way.
Another instance of suspicion is the report of about 3 million ballots arriving in the country for the pending election. There are 2,183,629 registered voters in the ensuing election. Yet, according to Daily Observer Reporter David Menjor, NEC chairman Jerome Korkoya said the excess ballots may be used to replace ballots that may be damaged in the voting process. He told journalist last Friday that each polling station will be supplied with 50 additional ballots, in case of mistaken ballot markings.
What assurance can Korkoya and his Commissioners give candidates and voters that there will be no dubious acts in the conduct of the election, when the President’s meeting with you at her private residence is already leaving people with doubts as to how credible the election results will be?
Besides, there are concerns over the voter exhibition exercise conducted a few months ago. At that time, Korkoya said those with valid voter’s ID cards without pictures in the data will be eligible to vote. During the voter registration period, some registrars were uncovered registering voters in private homes of political candidates here in Montserrado County.
These situations are factors with the propensity to ignite suspicion in the minds of candidates and voters about how free, fair, transparent and credible the October 10 poll will be.
We are, therefore, pleading with Korkoya and his Commissioners to be conscious of the unfolding preparatory activities and do everything in their power to exercise transparency and fairness to avoid confusion and violence.
We finally appeal to the representatives of ALL political parties and ALL legislative candidates to be present at each polling station to which they are assigned, and to be sober and keep vigil, taking note of everything that goes on there.
The Liberia National Police (LNP) should also be ready to respond to any confusion or violence that may erupt at any polling station or anywhere else on Election Day, and immediately and decisively bring it under control.