As the nation awaits the final ruling of the Supreme Court only a few hours away, the National Elections Commission (NEC) finds itself embroiled in a plethora of issues concerning the integrity of elections results in several electoral districts around the country. How such developments are going to impact the course of the ongoing electoral process remains unclear, although it is evident that the results are generating growing tensions within communities around the country.
The main question weighing on the minds of the public is whether the National Elections Commission (NEC), given all that is transpiring, can be trusted to conduct future elections be it a rerun or a runoff. Never ever in recent history has the Liberian electoral process been plagued with so much controversy as it is now under the oversight of its Chairman, Jerome Korkoya.
And for reasons that remain a mystery and defy logic, this individual is being allowed to cling on to the reins of authority at NEC, even when it is clear that under his leadership the integrity of the institution is being torn into shreds. In retrospect, the 2014 senatorial elections results and the unprecedented number of challenges to it that ended up in the Supreme Court provided early warning signs that went virtually ignored.
There were, for example, allegations of improper behavior, bordering on fraud, on the part of NEC officials. In some cases, compromise deals were concluded to have some contenders drop their charges while in others, the Supreme Court had to intervene to prevent NEC from further burning ballots before the matters were concluded.
And as though the 2014 senatorial elections were a dress rehearsal, results of the October 10, 2017 presidential and legislative elections have laid bare issues of integrity — issues which cannot be dismissed by a wave of the hand or by repetitive bare denials as is being done by Chairman Korkoya. And those issues will not go away, at least not even after the Supreme Court’s final ruling, scheduled to be delivered at 3 p.m. today.
As earlier pointed out by this newspaper in previous editorials, the integrity of the Voter Roll shall again come into play, no matter in which direction the dice rolls. Establishing the integrity of the Voters Roll is, therefore, a matter which must be considered urgent. The ECOWAS team of experts should be given full cooperation to enable them address this problem.
Towards this end, NEC should and must make available the entire Roll, especially the addendum list, which is perhaps the eyesore that needs attention. In undertakings of this nature, transparency is key to building and instilling public trust. For example, the flurry of bare denials coming from NEC officials in the wake of the publication of leaked emails, the contents of which suggest official tampering with the Voter Roll, must be fully investigated without delay.
As it appears, NEC has been standing as Judge, Jury and Executioner, shooting down genuine complaints as they see fit and not giving a hoot about public concerns regarding accountability and transparency. We cannot at this time make definitive statements about the veracity of these leaked emails, but we can confidently declare that a full investigation is the way to go to lay the matter to rest.
This is important because we know from history that permitting flawed elections results to stand is like striking a match before a tinder box; it is then only a matter of time before the whole thing blows apart.
We recall that fateful day in 1985 when Elections Commission (ECOM) Chairman Emmett Harmon declared that the stolen elections results which he had announced were “ordained by God.” Our traditional ally, through Secretary of State George Schultz, followed Emmett Harmon’s pronouncement and declared that those stolen results were, as he put it, “fair by African standards.” And what did that stolen election lead to? It led to a 14-year civil war that killed nearly 300,000 people, internally and externally displaced millions, destroyed Liberia’s infrastructure and turned her into a failed state.
Fast forward to 2017, international observers, following in the same footsteps as in 1985, also declared the October 10 elections free, fair and transparent. But this time around, much unlike before, the political parties did not swallow the international observers’ dictum hook, line and sinker. The aggrieved political parties took the matter to the Supreme Court and neither to the streets nor the bushes. By so doing, the nation breathed a sigh of relief.
We pray that the Supreme Court fully understands the GRAVITY of this matter and will today render dispassionate and blind justice.