Pronouncement recently made by National Elections Commission (NEC) chairman Jerome G. Korkoya that “People with valid voter ID cards will vote on October 10, even if their names and other details were not identified during the voters roll exhibition,” has created embarrassment not only for the public, but the NEC as well.
The first civil society group to raise alarm over the pronouncement last week was the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC). Represented by its chairman, Oscar Bloh, the ECC said the pronouncement has the potential to undermine the voter roll exercise and defeat the very purpose for which it was commissioned.
After the ECC, one of NEC commissioners, Cllr. Jonathan K. Weedor, also rejected the June 14 pronouncement by Korkoya, backing his action that “The essence of the voter roll exhibition exercise is to provide individuals who participated in the voter registration exercise the opportunity to vet the provisional roll aimed at establishing a final registration roll that is reliable and credible.”
Furthermore, the NEC commissioner disclosed that there are several problems associated with the present provisional roll ranging from the omission of thousands of names to missing photos and profiles of registrants. He further indicated in his comment that the NEC chairman’s comment is alarming, disturbing and troubling because a reliable and credible final registration roll is a cardinal requirement for every free, fair and transparent election.
In addition to the preceding comments, Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper has complained to the Senate about the irregularities, and the Senate has called Korkoya to appear before its plenary today to respond to questions.
Apart from concerns raised by Senator Cooper and the ECC chairperson, Oscar Bloh, it is especially more troubling that one of the major decision makers at the NEC differs with Korkoya.
Why troubling? Because the NEC chairman must get the backing of the rest of the five commissioners that work with him. But Cllr. Weedor, one of NEC’s most experienced commissioners, has differed on grounds that the chairman is in error. This may lead people to think that Korkoya does not consult his team before coming out with public statements. It also raises concern as to whether Korkoya’s relationship with his coworkers is cordial.
The election in Liberia this year is not only historical but crucial as sustenance of our peace and democracy heavily depends on it. How can the chairman make policy pronouncements without consulting the rest of his coworkers? This insinuates that there may be internal wrangling and disagreement among NEC officials, which could erode public confidence in the elections authority.
Alarm raised by Commissioner Weedor also raises concern that processes leading to the October election are totally different this time around. In the two postwar elections Liberia has held, not too many complaints emanated from the registration process, except the late arrival of materials to some places.
But this current process began with problems and continues to be problematic. First, the NEC put out an advertisement calling for competent, qualified and credible people, but in the end, it recruited people who could not effectively and efficiently do the work. Misspelling of names and other details, disorganized information, secret registrations, as well as the discovery of voter registration forms in authorized hands, were the order and talk of the day. In addition to late arrival of materials at some centers, cameras became dysfunctional; registration forms were scarce to meet targeted groups; and election workers were engaged in malpractices evidenced by those caught in the Johnsonville belt secretly registering voters in the house of a representative aspirant.
These irregularities have been proven by the current voter roll exhibition exercise that the NEC chairman is finding a solution to resolve. The fact that most of the record clerks and photographers were unprofessional and recruited on the basis of connection, led to disorganized data and the disappearance of photos and names.
What Korkoya should know is that the concerns raised by Commissioner Weedor, the ECC and Senator Cooper coupled with his own questionable citizenship status are creating suspicion about the credibility of the upcoming elections in the minds of voters, and politicians. Besides weakening the intent of the voter roll exhibition, many people will also end up losing their information; consequently leading unqualified people to vote and discouraging registered voters from voting. Commissioner Weedor’s tone in the argument would cause anyone to reason that Korkoya may be working as a one man army.
We want to reemphasize here that elections are crucial to the sustenance of peace in any country. Therefore, failure to make the election credible and transparent has the propensity to spark conflict. We want Korkoya and his team to supervise the process with care, making sure to do due diligence. Cllr. Jerome George Korkoyah, please remember that the future of this country will be determined by the conduct of these elections, and any attempt to make the process questionable will put your credibility and reputation on the line.