Runoff Sputters

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Three major political parties, Benoni Urey’s All Liberian Party (ALP), Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party (LP) and Joseph Boakai’s Unity Party (UP), yesterday declared their total loss of confidence in the National Elections Commission and its Chairman, Jerome Korkoya, to conduct the presidential runoff scheduled for November 7.

In a strongly worded statement presented to the international community and the local and international media yesterday, the three parties also issued a strong indictment against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for allegedly engaging in electoral interference and manipulation.

The three parties said they were aware that long before the October 10, 2017 poll, President Sirleaf had invited Election Magistrates to her residence for a meeting. The three parties declared that meeting “unprecedented in election history.” This act, said the three parties, clearly amounted to “interference with the electoral process and has no legal basis or justification whatsoever.”

They described the President’s conduct as “an act of intimidation and inducement, especially since some Commissioners of the National Elections Commission had warned Chairman Jerome Korkoya against Election Magistrates meeting President Sirleaf.” Those Commissioners were correct, the three political parties said, “because there was no precedent for it anywhere; that meeting was not necessary at all.”

UP, LP and ALP, contended that had the President any legitimate “concerns” about this year’s elections, she needed to have made those concerns public and not to the magistrates, who are way below the administrative and legal institutional channels. The parties recalled that prior to the President’s meeting with Election Magistrates, she had met with some Commissioners of NEC and hinted that she was “interested in the outcome of the elections.”

This newspaper, the Daily Observer, is on record for warning NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya on numerous occasions of his historic responsibility to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections. The stakes, we said, were too high, for they impinged critically on the peace and stability of this republic, which only recently had been embroiled in a 14-year war that devastated our country and slaughtered nearly 300,000 lives.

Alas! For reasons best known to himself, Mr. Korkoya has clearly not paid heed to that advice and is now faced with a total loss of confidence on the part of three political parties, which have stated unequivocally that they no longer have confidence in his ability—or that of his entire Commission—to conduct the runoff, which he has billed for November 7.

By implication, too, the three parties have implied that neither have they—and that includes her own dear Unity Party, which ushered her for two successive terms into the presidency—no confidence in her ability to preside over the election runoff.

This tells us that we are faced with a major political and probably even constitutional crisis. For if Unity Party, which is scheduled to participate in the runoff against George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), has no confidence in NEC’s and its chair, Jerome Korkoya, to conduct the runoff, it means that it is a matter of time before UP and other parties call for the reconstitution of the entire Commission.

But first, we must see what becomes of the three parties’ case of electoral fraud against NEC, filed before the Supreme Court. Here again, this newspaper has frequently urged the court to be dispassionate and blind in its administration of justice. But in the case of the Code of Conduct, it yielded to the first two branches of government – the Legislature and Executive. But when a short while later, reality hit the political fan, the very people whom the code had targeted were declared eligible to contest the elections.

It remains to be seen what the High Court will say in this case and what impact it will have on the National Elections Commission, the November 10 elections and the proposed November 7 runoff.

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