Monrovia - Shortly after the National Elections Commission announced the final results of the first round of this year’s presidential elections, Alexander Cummings instructed his key aides and campaign staffers to look into numerous reports of election irregularities in hopes of identifying some of the problems and issues poll watchers reported from polling stations across the country.
Given all the focus surrounding the disputed first round and chatters over a runoff or rerun, aides are hoping to return the ANC leader to the focus of the campaign he ran while maintaining his position that the electoral system in Liberia is in bad shape and in need of reforms.
Mr. Lafayette O. Gould, the party’s national chair, confirmed in a statement that the party had engaged expert assistance and conducted a detailed review of findings.
“Although our final findings do reveal gross and wide spread improprieties, they came after the deadline for filing complaints with the National Election Commission (NEC).”
Nonetheless, Mr. Gould went on to state that the party intended to catalog and release its findings to the public in an effort to help improve the electoral process and illustrate the Alternative National Congress’ commitment to democracy, transparency and better governance.
Irregularities Existed, but…
That probe which FrontPageAfrica has learned was conducted by the T.D. Joseph & Associates, came to the conclusion that some 67% of all tally sheets had errors and irregularities but while those irregularities exist, the firm was unable to conclude the impact of the irregularities on the elections outcome without further investigation.
Despite a late start and entry into the presidential race, Mr. Cummings defied political convention with one of the most organized presidential campaigns and an impressive top five finish.
According to the final results by the NEC, George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change obtained a total of 596, 037 votes, constituting 38.4 percent, followed by Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai who obtained a total of 446, 716 votes, amounting to 28.8 percent.
The Liberty Party, LP of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine obtained a total of 149, 495 votes, amounting to 9.6 percent, followed by Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, MDR who got a total of 127, 666 votes, constituting 8.2 percent, while Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress, ANC obtained a total of 112, 067 votes amounting to 7.2 percent of the total votes cast on October 10, 2017.
LP: NEC Proceeded Contrary to Rules
But Cllr. Brumskine, in filings to the elections commission, claimed the October 10 elections in which he came third was flawed with fraud and irregularities and accused NEC of being delinquent in investigating his claims, but rather announced the runoff election.
The Supreme Court agreed.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor ordered NEC to investigate the allegations as a matter of urgency based on the implications it has on the governance of the country.
“The NEC though having jurisdiction must proceed properly and legally but by setting a date and proceeding to conduct a runoff election without first hearing and deciding the complaint by the petitioners, which alleged gross irregularities and fraud.
The NEC was proceeding contrary to the rules, which ought to be observed at all times.”
Cllr. Jerome Korkoya maintains that some of the Liberty Party’s complaints are baseless and not evidence-based, telling a news conference that while it is true that the October 10 elections had some irregularities, those irregularities were not of magnitude to compel a rerun of the process.
While Mr. Cummings, who had run a campaign based on change held on to his promise not to contest the results unless there was strong evidence available, he came under fire from some quarters when he added his name to a recent effort by the ruling Unity Party, the All Liberian Party and the Liberty Party, raising concerns about the conduct of the first round of the presidential elections.
Standing by his decision
The ANC also expressed its support to the Liberty Party’s official complaint to the National Elections Commission.
“The ANC and its Standard Bearer promises to continue to be dedicated to creating change and reform in Liberia.
"We ask all partisans and Liberians to please continue to remain calm during this very difficult period in our democracy."
"We must remain steadfast and peaceful in the preservation of the peace and stability of our great nation,” Gould said.
Cllr. Brumskine followed up his claims of foul play during his appearance on the BBC when he said that he and his party have evidence showing massive irregularities.
“We have evidence that the cover top of ballot boxes that were removed after polling had been closed and ballots had been counted, boxes had been sealed and the covers of the cover of the boxes were removed in order for presiding officers to open the box and put in ballots that they wanted to put in.
"We have some of those covers in our possession, we have submitted into evidence, photos of those covers to the elections commission."
"We discovered hundreds of ballots in Grand Gedeh County that had been taken out of the ballot box and thrown away.”
The LP standard bearer also noted that poll officers in Nimba were arrested because they had pre-marked ballots that they were using the stuff the ballot boxes with.
“George Weah received 1,109 votes at a polling place that should not have had more than 500 registered voters.”
A couple of days after Brumskine’s BBC interview, Mr. Cummings showed up alongside the leaders of LP, UP, and ALP, and explained his decision to support a legal recourse, while declaring that it was important for Liberians to break away from the past.
“We cannot continue to do things the old way and expect new results."
"This is about our country, this is about Liberia. I said during my campaign that we cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results; because we may have had problems in the past with our results doesn’t mean we should accept it this time around."
"The one thing we are united is that we do not believe that the recent election reflects the will of the Liberian people and this is our primary goal."
"We want to make sure that this process follows the rules, the laws and the Constitution of our country.”
A Call to Action: Cummings Committed to Electoral Reform
In recent days, the ANC leader appears to be expanding his focus to the core issues of his campaign, beginning with support to strengthening institutions like the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia and the Liberia Marketing Association(LMA).
Cummings has been working with PATEL and recently contributed US$18,000 toward the acquisition of an office space and has vowed to continue to support them and continue to empower Liberians and uplift Liberia.
That followed a US$10,000 contribution to the LMA for the construction of a nursery school at Rally Time Market. Given all the focus surrounding the disputed first round and chatters over a runoff or rerun, aides are hoping to return the ANC leader to the focus of the campaign he ran while maintaining his position that the electoral system in Liberia is in bad shape and in need of reforms.
Mr. Cummings’ main focus for now, aides say, is on the welfare of the Liberian people and particularly Liberian business people.
“I believe Liberians have for too long been spectators to their economy and I am committed to changing that.
This is the beginning of what will be an ongoing and enduring effort to empower Liberian businesses and partnering with organizations like PATEL and the LMA,” the ANC told FrontPageAfrica.
The focus on Liberians and a break from the fury that has followed the first round of the elections, is one way, aides say, the ANC leader can fulfil his promise while cementing his status as the next viable opposition figure – regardless of who winds up winning the presidency.
Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia expressed confidence in the integrity of the October elections, stating: “No accredited Liberian, regional, or international observation group suggested that the cumulative anomalies observed reflect systemic issues sufficient to undermine the fundamental integrity of the electoral process.
Where issues were identified in the first round of voting, we urge the National Elections Commission (NEC) to undertake corrective actions before, during, and after the runoff election.
The U.S. Embassy urges the top two finishers, who collectively received the support of two-thirds of Liberian voters, to focus on constructively engaging each other and voters as they prepare to compete in the runoff.”
But even amid the concerns from the international community, Liberty Party and the ruling UP appear to be dismissing reports that they are playing a delay technique in a bid to eventually force a play for an interim government.
LP, UP Rule Out Interim Govt. Push
In a joint statement dated November 16, 2017, the two parties wrote:
“There are some who have been made to believe that if a newly elected President is not inaugurated on the third Monday of January 2018, the Liberian “sky will fall,” or that an interim government would have to be formed.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Although we are committed to ensuring that the legal process is concluded long before January 15, 2018, if for any reason—the continuous breaches by the NEC or otherwise—the judicial process is not timely concluded, there will be no break in constitutional continuity in our country.
The succession provision of the Constitution of Liberia is clear and unambiguous; the government of Liberia will continue to function and our Republic will live on, stronger and healthier than ever.
Together, we would have achieved a democratic transition, availing ourselves of the rule of law—a salient tenet of democracy.”
Taking a page from history, the parities recalled that at the conclusion of the 1985 Presidential and General Elections, the erstwhile Liberia Action Party, along with other political parties, felt that the elections results were fraudulent.
“Certain individuals among them resorted to armed violence, as a means of addressing their grievance, which ultimately resulted into a civil war that spanned over a period of 14 years, leaving about 250,000 Liberians dead, many more injured and/or displaced, and our country completely destroyed.
At the conclusion of the 2011 Presidential and General Elections, the Congress for Democratic Change felt that the elections results were fraudulent.
As a means of addressing their grievance, they engaged in demonstrations, which resulted into the death of at least one Liberian— one too many.
However, following the announcement of the results of the first round of the 2017 Presidential and Representatives Elections, the All Liberia Party (ALP), Liberty Party (LP), and Unity Party (UP) felt that not only were the results of the elections fraudulent, but that the elections were also characterized by gross irregularities and violation of the Constitution and Elections Law of Liberia.
The leadership of the four political parties (the “Political Parties”), however, made the decision that our grievances would be addressed through the channel provided by law.”
According to the parties, the ongoing legal wrangle is unprecedented but necessary.
“This is history making, unfolding right before our eyes. Never before in living memory have the results of fraudulent elections been challenged through the rule of law.
One may, therefore, argue that our democracy is being tested, but it is certainly not under assault.
We are, notwithstanding, aware that a few of our compatriots may be apprehensive about the course that we are taking, because heretofore change in our country had been synonymous with violence, destruction, and death.
But we assure our fellow Liberians, our ECOWAS brothers and sisters, and the international community, which the change Liberia pursues today is peaceful and lawful.”
Cummings Draws Line from Tit-for-Tat
For now, the UP and LP appear to be bruised following last week’s high court decision denying the UP Bill of Information filed against the elections commission to hold the commission in contempt for failure to appeal.
Handing down the ruling, Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie said the constitution of Liberia, Article 83C sets a time period of 30 days in which the NEC is to hear and make determination in election matters.
The court ruled that in its opinion there is no reason to hold the NEC in contempt when the commission has not exceeded the time given under the constitution.
Adding to the misery, lawyers representing the legal interests of the ruling party ended their production of witnesses and evidence before the elections commission.
The high court last week summoned both NEC and the LP.
For the foreseeable future, Liberians and the international community are keen to see how the lingering legal wrangle over election irregularities will play out.
The options are few but pertinent to the survival of Liberia’s bourgeoning post-war democracy:
A run-off or a rerun? That’s the question many are hoping will be answered in the coming days as the clock ticks toward the finish line for the Sirleaf administration.
For Cummings, there were significant improprieties and potential rigging and consequently, which is why he says he still supports the LP complaint.
Nevertheless, what he wants to distance himself from what he sees as the personal attacks and unproven allegations.
“The tit for tat that appears to be anger between the opposition and EJS.”