NEC, the Challenge Is Yours to Maintain the Peace

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We have seven days left to elect new Liberian leaders, members of the House of Representatives but most especially the President and Vice President of the Republic.

Ahead of the election next Tuesday, political candidates have been making preparations through campaigning to build trust in followers and undecided voters to support them toward victory on October 10.

The campaign has been marked partially by some forms of violence such as were recorded a week ago in Nimba County between partisans of Liberty Party (LP) and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). In recent days violence also erupted in Montserrado County between members of the ruling Unity Party (UP) and CDC.

These instances are manifestations of just how desperate people are to ascend to power in this country.

The most worrisome situation now is the suspicion some politicians are having that the election may not be free, fair and transparent due to some events that have unfolded in recent times.

Prior to President Sirleaf’s recent departure for the United States, she reportedly met secretly at her private residence with the Chairman of the National Elections Commission, Jerome Korkoya, and NEC’s 19-member Board of Commissioners. Even though it is her administrative prerogative to meet with these NEC officials, politicians as well as many concerned citizens believe that at this crucial time of election, where skepticism pervades the national landscape, it would have been better had the President met the NEC officials at NEC’s own headquarters, and in the open.

It is against this background that the political leader of the Movement for Democracy and Reconciliation (MDR), Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson, came out with a strong statement that President Sirleaf is trying to tamper with the pending elections.

True or false or mere speculation, Senator Johnson accused the President of having recommended 5,000 new names to the NEC for recruitment to count the ballots after the votes have been cast. The MDR political leader further alleged that the President distributed parcels among the NEC Commissioners, an accusation that is yet to be confirmed.

In another development, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, when recently addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, mentioned that after successfully completing her second constitutional mandate as President of Liberia, “the way should be paved for the next generation of Liberians to lead the country into the future.”

Again, this statement has sparked heated arguments among Liberians. “Generational change,” which she also boldly called for in her exclusive interview granted CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpour last week, has led political pundits to consider a tacit rejection of the candidacy of her two-term Vice President, Joseph Boakai, who is 75, in favor of a younger person, especially George Weah of CDC.

There has also been speculation that President Sirleaf, having allegedly failed to convince Vice President Joseph Boakai to choose LP’s Charles Brumskine as vice presidential nominee, has decided to support Brumskine instead of Boakai. As a result, UP and President Sirleaf seem not to have a cohesive relationship with Mr. Boakai.

Amid these peculiar and startling uncertainties, NEC itself has gone ahead to print about one million extra ballots to replace ballots that may get damaged during the voting process. Though NEC chairman Jerome Korkoya has said that excess ballots are a usual thing in every election, people continue to raise eyebrows as to why so many extra ballot papers.

Already many people and groups have been suspicious of NEC’s own credibility in the election. It may be recalled that during the voter registration exercise in February this year, registrants accused NEC officials of bringing on board relatives and close friends who could not perform well their duties as registrars. Moreover, some registrars were accused of secretly registering people in private homes of representative aspirants and duplicating copies of the registration forms.

There is also this legal situation that NEC chairman Korkoya allegedly holds American citizenship that is impermissible under the Liberian law.

These multiple problems have put ordinary impoverished Liberians under intense fear as to how credible the electoral process will be to sustain the peace. In such an extraordinary dilemma, Liberians can depend only on the help of God and the international community for the maintenance of peace.

Yet, the key player in the ensuing electoral process is NEC, its chairman, Jerome Korkoya, and his fellow Commissioners, and other workers. They must seriously note these suspicions and be credible, diligent, meticulous, transparent and true to God of our Fathers and Mothers by properly conducting these elections, so that Liberia may continue on the path of peace.

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