The Kenya Supreme Court’s landmark decision last week nullifying the results of that country’s August 8 elections due to constitutional irregularities has very serious implications for Liberia’s impending October 10 elections.
To begin with, Liberia’s current electoral scenario is far, far more complicated than was Kenya’s last elections. The opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, who was seeking to unseat Kenya’s incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, accused the country’s Election Commission of fraud.
Mr. Odinga first complained of President Kenyatta’s personal connection with the printing company, Ghurai Publishing Firm in Dubai that printed the ballots for the August 8 elections. Secondly, Mr. Chris Msando, who was in charge of the country’s electronic voting system, was brutally murdered a little over a week before the election. Who killed him and why are yet to be determined. The European Union and the United States government offered to form part of the investigation, but for reasons best known to itself, the Kenya government refused this offer.
Thirdly, poll watchers of Odinga’s party, the National Super Alliance Party (NASA), were thrown out during the counting process in Kenyatta strongholds. This is a fundamental electoral problem that could have rendered the whole election seriously flawed.
Finally, what NASA’s poll watchers were reporting was in conflict with what Kenya Elections Commission was reporting.
All of these irregularities, among others, led the Kenya Supreme Court to cancel the elections and call for a new vote within 60 days.
These are indeed very serious irregularities. But we think that the problems hovering over the impending October 10 Liberian elections are far more complicated, and could lead to many political parties contesting whatever outcome these elections might bring.
Foremost among these is National Elections Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoyah’s citizenship. He has been accused of holding United States citizenship, and the State of New Jersey confirmed this, and also proved that he participated in the US elections in 2008. Even his US passport and voting records have been supplied from New Jersey and published in the Liberian media.
Secondly, there is the controversy over the Code of Conduct. The Supreme Court of Liberia first, in March 3, 2017, in the case involving Bong County Superintendent Selena Polson Mappy, declared the Code “constitutional,” though many thinking Liberians, including leading legal experts and also this newspaper, the Daily Observer, argued forcefully that the Code was decidedly unconstitutional.
Now that same Supreme Court of Liberia later cleared several candidates who were said to have been in violation of the Code, here is another opportunity for any of the political parties to feel aggrieved, leading them to contest the results of the elections. They could accuse NEC of inconsistency and double standards, etc.
The next problem has to do with the voter registration exercise. During this exercise, Police discovered that some people were engaging in private registrations in their homes. One such case was in Johnsonville, Montserrado County.
There have many calls on NEC to release the full and final listing of registered voters. With 35 days to elections, this is the first time in recent elections that the VRR is yet to be made public. The releasing of the VRR, many believe, should not be optional for the NEC as it is mandatory, according to the country’s electoral laws. The VRR, according to the laws, should have been released before the start of campaign exercises, which are now in their third week.
Do Chairman Korkoyah and his fellow Commissioners not realize that these very series discrepancies could throw the whole electoral process into total confusion?
It is for these reasons that we say that the problems surrounding Liberia’s impending elections are far more complex than what happened in Kenya.
We feel that even in this eleventh hour, it may not be too late address these critical and urgent issues. How, for example, do President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Elections Commission Chair intend to deal with the urgent question of his citizenship? For clearly many may legitimately argue that his presence does not give any credibility to electoral process. This alone could throw the whole post-election scenario into total disarray.
There is, then, the whole question of who is eligible to vote in Liberia, and where is the total Voter Registration List? These are fundamental questions governing elections anywhere in the world.
Liberia, after 170 years of independence, cannot afford to be found wanting in these elementary electoral matters.