The month of December, during which the senatorial elections are to be held, is just about five (5) months away and, before one can realize it, December will be with all the excitement and hue that usually characterize elections in general in Liberia.
Whether or not the pending December elections are going to mirror the very acrimonious 2014 senatorial elections remains to be seen. One thing which appears very probable, judging from the look of things is that the National Elections Commission (NEC) may be found wanting when the crunch comes.
No one should lose sight of the potential dangers which could be posed to the peace and stability of this nation by the conduct of fraudulent elections. The 2014 senatorial elections, looking back on history, was probably the first of such elections that was tension-packed, owing to allegations of fraud arising largely from official misconduct by some NEC officials.
Several contestants took their cases to the Supreme Court for redress. For unexplained reasons those cases lingered for so long at the Supreme Court. Recounts were ordered in some cases while in others, NEC had burned the ballots before the recount was even done, in what appeared to be a crafty cover-up scheme.
At the time, a major contentious issue was that of the Voters Roll (VR), which was compromised as a former NEC Commissioner openly admitted in a well penned observation published during the run-up period to the 2017 elections. Aside from the compromised VR, the NEC Board of Commissioners found itself plagued with credibility issues as its Chairman Jerome Korkoyah was known to have possessed US citizenship and had even voted in US elections.
Additionally, evidence was uncovered of deliberate attempts to corrupt the 2017 electoral process through illegal voter registration. One such individual caught red-handed producing Voter Registration Cards was a top official in the office of President Ellen Sirleaf, but he went with impunity.
Further, it can be recalled how officials of the NEC including Elections Magistrates were cited to a private meeting with President Sirleaf at her Sinkor residence right on the cusp of elections.
And this was done in the full glare of the public and the international diplomatic and humanitarian community. The elections were conducted using a Voters Registry whose integrity had been compromised.
The parties then sought the intervention of the Supreme Court, which ordered a thorough cleanup of the Voters Registry before the conduct of the 2017 elections. But the NEC ignored the Supreme Court’s mandate and proceeded to conduct the elections on the basis of a Voters Roll whose integrity had been severely compromised.
And then what followed was a legal tussle at the Supreme Court that virtually had the nation on edge. Now, here we find ourselves again, confronted with the unsettled issue of a compromised VR staring down our faces with senatorial elections just five months due.
Above all is the unpalatable fact that the NEC appears to be made up of party loyalists who, make no mistake about it, seem prepared to finger elections results, being completely impervious to the dastardly outcomes which may be sure in coming as a result.
A case in point is that of NEC Commissioner Floyd Sayor, an individual whose steadfast commitment and loyalty to the CDC played out in his manipulation of vote count figures in the recent District 15 Representative elections.
Once again, recalling the 1985 elections, whose results were stolen and led to a series of multiplier events that pushed the country to the brink, everything must be done to ensure that this does not ever happen again.
As former NEC Chairperson, Cllr Frances Johnson Morris notes, elections can be triggers of conflict if they are not properly managed in a clear and transparent way for all to see.
She may have had probable reference to the 1985 elections whose stolen results and resultant widespread national ill-will proved to be a major trigger of the 14-year civil war. These concerns are indeed genuine and time may not be our best friend as the clock continues to tick towards December.
Make no mistake about it, the nation may be headed for crisis of significant proportions if due diligence is not accorded to public concerns about the integrity of the process leading to the conduct of the elections.
Liberia can certainly not afford a relapse into violent conflict based on past experience. Sadly, officials of this government appear indifferent to this reality and are seen to be doing all they can to maintain a grip on power indefinitely, no matter the consequences. But they could be in for a very rude awakening. The writing is on the wall.