Local media reports on the ongoing electoral/Voters Roll Update(VRU) process are rife with accounts of fraud including multiple registrations, registration of underaged individuals, voter trucking and a host of other irregularities. Added to this are plans, now unveiled, by the Collaborating Political Parties to file a legal injunction on the ongoing process.
Amongst the host of concerns they have raised is the issue of the Voters Roll/Registry which the parties maintained have not been cleaned-up by the National Elections Commission (NEC) since it was mandated to do so prior to the conduct of the 2017 run-up Presidential elections. Just how this action is going to impact the December 8 elections remains to be seen.
Against the avalanche of reports of widespread fraud in the ongoing Voters Roll Update (VRU) process, the National Elections Commission has announced that it is going to conduct verification checks upon completion of a VRU process that has already been marred by fraud.
This is questionable, given the fact that even minors have been registered by NEC in addition to foreigners who have also been registered across the border in Sierra Leone.
It was observed at various points that during the Update process, the so-called mobile teams did not have access to computers which would have afforded team members to access the NEC database to corroborate information such as age, date of birth, etc., being supplied by registrants.
And to make matters worse, the Update included first time voters who presented themselves claiming ages that could not be verified as well as other required information which also could not be fact-checked.
In the face of this, the NEC Acting Chairperson has announced that following the close of the VRU, NEC will conduct what she called a “De-duplication” exercise.
She maintains that this has become necessary in view of reports of multiple registrations adding that this was part of the cleansing exercise of the Voters Roll in order to prepare a Final Registration Roll/Registry(FRR).
But just how long is such exercise going to take is anyone’s guess particularly in view of the short period remaining to the December 8 election.
From what it seems the actions of NEC officials appear to convey a distinct impression that they are confused, lost and fully unprepared to handle the task. Further, the Commission is hamstrung by integrity issues which this newspaper has flagged consistently. Fraudulent data, according to insider sources are being inputted into the system.
Worse is the fact that the NEC data center is under the oversight of Commissioner Floyd Sayor an individual once before charged and held liable for manipulating vote count results in the District 15 Representative by-elections. How then does the NEC expect the public to have confidence in the figures coming out of its datacenter?
Their actions so far, is giving rise to heightened public suspicions about what they see as clear signs of intent to rig the December 8 elections results heavily in favor of the ruling CDC.
At least this is the view widely shared by community residents in Bomi and Cape Mount Counties where locals are reported to have mounted resistance to the presence of trucked voters in the respective communities.
As this newspaper went to bed, reports were filtering in from Gbarpolu County about the late night arrival in Gbarma of two (2) NTA busloads of trucked voters allegedly to register to support the CDC candidate.
This has caused consternation in that community. And the reports further suggest that this latest action has infuriated the people of that community, some of who (names withheld) have told the Daily Observer that top officials of government are behind the trucking scheme which they have sworn to resist.
Indeed, the plethora of problems including competence and integrity challenges attending the VR update, pending elections and referendum clearly point in one direction and that is the December 8, 2020 date may have to be moved forward.
Any date beyond December 31, will throw the country into a Constitutional crisis.
The Daily Observer holds this opinion in view of the fact that realistically, the clean-up of the Voters Roll will require several months, by which time the tenure of several senators will have expired. This means that vacancies will be created in the Senate, which will have to be filled in order for that body to conduct official business.
It also means that the Legislature will cease to function simply because it will be incomplete and because of this, the legitimacy of the entire government will be called into question. This is a dangerous development.
During his inaugural ceremonies, President Weah asked the Liberian people to judge him not by the eloquence of his speeches but rather by the quality of decisions he will make. Well as regard the eloquence of his speeches, Liberians were prepared to overlook in jest, perhaps.
And the Liberian people have made a lot of jokes about his enunciation of certain English words including his poor command of formal English and simply laughed them off.
But what Liberians find difficult to stomach or laugh off is the quality of President Weah’s decisions, most of which the public views as poor, self-seeking and which have given rise to serious questions about his competence and ability to lead.
His name, for instance has been linked to several scandals, the latest being that of the sale of Liberian diplomatic passports to which the US government has reacted swiftly and harshly.
At this stage, it remains unclear what the final outcomes of this latest development will be. Former Passport Director Wonplo, now in hiding has reportedly been singing like a mockingbird calling names.
Whatever way President Weah reacts to those linked will be yet another test of his leadership and the quality of his decision making. But an even greater test of leadership and quality decision making awaits him in how he handles public disquiet about the ongoing VRU process.