The Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) on Tuesday advised the National Elections Commission (NEC) to probe speedily reports of pre-marked ballots and publish the findings.
This is a cogent (strong, logical) advice, but we wonder whether it has not come too late. Remember how Liberty Party’s standard bearer Charles Brumskine ran to the Supreme Court of Liberia two weeks ago to complain bitterly about the massive irregularities and fraud that occurred in the first round of the elections, held on October 10. But the Court was in denial, contending that though there were some irregularities and fraud, yet they were not widespread enough to warrant a rerun of the elections.
There were reports of widespread ballot fixing at many of the polls, and one person was found with ballots in his home in Johnsonville. That person happened to be an employee in the office of the President of Liberia. NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya told reporters that the individual concerned, one Siebo, had been arrested and turned over to the Justice Ministry. But the Chairman never explained how Mr. Siebo got those ballots, who gave them to him and why.
Both Counselor Brumskine and lawyers of Unity Party (UP), which joined LP in the lawsuit before the Supreme Court, complained of widespread ballot fixing in many places around the country.
Then yesterday there were reports of alarming new developments within the NEC headquarters in Monrovia, including the dismissal of a key functionary in that office, allegedly because he refused to be part of corrupt misdeeds within NEC.
Worse yet, two of the major international observer groups here to monitor the elections, were yesterday denied entrance into the Commission’s Data Center. Those denied entrance were said to have been observers from the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) and from the Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Reports reaching the Daily Observer said NEC Chairman Korkoya had given no valid reason for his refusal for these international observers to enter the Data Center, except that ECOWAS experts had no further relevance to NEC’s ongoing electoral work.
The question that immediately arises is, what is Chairman Korkoya trying to hide? Who ever heard of credible and reputable election monitoring experts being denied entrance to the electoral data base, especially when widespread complaints have been heard of ballot fixing in the first round of the elections, held on October 10, 2017?
That was the one important concession the Supreme Court made in its ruling, namely, that NEC should cleanup the entire election roll to ensure that there would not be duplication of names and other irregularities in the formulation of the final election roll in preparation for Tuesday’s runoff. So how are the credible and reputable election observer groups, ECOWAS and NDI, to ensure that the voter roll had been “cleaned up,” when its experts were denied entrance into the Database Center?
But the Supreme Court is partly to blame, because it permitted Chairman Korkoya a free hand on the urgent and critical issue of cleaning up the Final Registration Roll. Korkoya was allowed to take lightly the Supreme Court’s mandate, which he did not implement before he hurriedly announced that the runoff would be held the day after Christmas, December 26, 2017.
It is unfortunate that the Elections Coordinating Committee did not seem to have brought pressure to bear on NEC to clean up the FRR immediately after the Supreme Court issued its mandate. And yet, who could pressure Mr. Korkoya to take the Court’s mandate seriously when the Court did not take its own mandate seriously.
Why do we say that? Because the Court went ahead and approved the runoff date without knowing whether Chairman Korkoya had even begun to implement the Court’s own mandate.
Now that the runoff is over, and it is becoming clearer and clearer where we are heading, to call on NEC to undertake any “probing” whatsoever may be an exercise in futility.