African NGOs Observers Mission Terms Runoff Credible
Monrovia – The African NGOs Observer Mission has termed the Tuesday, December 26, runoff election in Liberia as a “peaceful and fair election with a relative participation of voters.”
In line with other missions that observed the conduct of Liberia’s runoff presidential election, these NGOs under the banner, International Mission of African Civil Society for Peace, Democracy and Good Governance (IMACS PDGG) also praised the Liberian voters for the peaceful manner in which they conducted themselves before and after the polls.
According to the IMACS PDGG’s preliminary declaration on the runoff, the election marked the end of the electoral process in Liberia and signaled the closeness of the end of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s tenure.
Giving a background of the issues that led to the runoff, including the results of the October 10 elections, the back and forth legal issues that saw the opposition Liberty Party and the ruling Unity Party taking the National Elections Commission (NEC) to the Supreme Court, the suspension of the initially scheduled November 7, 2017 runoff and the court’s opinion, the mission said, “The issues surrounding these elections highlighted several facts for Liberia: the respect of the Liberian Constitution; allowing several candidates to challenge and improve Liberian democracy; and bringing peaceful and free conditions to the next government to continue the development process in order to change the daily condition of Liberian citizens.”
Expressing gratitude to Liberian authorities for the welcome and practical arrangements for the successful holding of the runoff, the mission, in its report, said it was invited to observe the election by the Government of Liberia through the NEC.
IMACS PDGG is a conglomeration of several NGOs on the continent that have been working for nearly a decade in the establishment and promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance.
The delegation is made up of legal experts, institutional communication, politics, biometrics, electoral security and other fields of electoral governance from several NGOs including Africa Esperance (Benin), ESA (Togo), Africa Democracy & Councils ADC (Côte d’Ivoire), Activism for Electoral Supervision in Africa ASEA (DRC), and All Africa (Côte d’Ivoire), ZOLA ONG (Benin).
Coordinated by Oyéoussi Charles Balogoun, president of the NGO Afrique Esperance, Electoral Expert and Bridge Trainer, the delegation, which was composed of 25 observers, was deployed in 6 counties, including Montserrado, Bomi, Margibi, Nimba, Lofa and Sinoe. These observers were able to visit at least 257 polling places, according to their report.
IMACS PDGG said the methodology used during the mission is that implemented in the “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation” and the “Code of Conduct for International Election Observers” signed at the United Nations in New York on October 27, 2005 during the United Nations Commemoration, adding that a mission will stay in Liberia for a month or more if necessary to monitor the post-election events, after which a final report will be drafted and disseminated.
IMACS PDGG further said in its report that the ballot proceeded calmly with a relative participation of voters; with sufficient transparency in decision-making at the level of the NEC ensuring the confidence of all political actors in the electoral administration.
“We noticed that many things have changed in the organization of this second round. It means that the National Elections Commission has taken into consideration all the recommendations all the observers had made to it to make the election very transparent and credible to all the political parties in the race.
As a general rule, the national legal framework provides a reasonable basis for conducting democratic elections in accordance with international standards for elections ratified and accepted by the Republic of Liberia.
The legal framework of these elections was respected according to the polling and counting procedures, the consolidated approved regulations and some other constitutional texts around this election.
“The runoff election campaign was brief but was in a festive atmosphere without incidences that would disturb the peace and joy; and we got more opportunity to meet the candidates. All the recommendations of all the national and international observers were very carefully taken into consideration by NEC. This gave to the runoff a very fluid and transparent vote.
“Regarding the voting procedure, we remarked the quality work carried out by the NEC and the quality contribution of the NEC technical and financial partners, including UNDP, Irish Aid, Canada Republic, Sweden Republic, European Union, USAID through IFES, etc. All of them contributed inexorably to the success of the mission assigned to the NEC.
“We established the intellectual quality of all candidates. The gender approach is more respected at the level of political parties in the choice of presidential candidates. We had noticed the spirit of temperance, patience and courtesy of the electorate – all of that contributed to the success of the ballot.
“The polling precincts closed at 6:00 p.m. precisely, and the counting of the votes casted has started. Each polling place had started the counting of the ballot papers in the presence of all the political parties’ observers. After one hour and half, majority of the polling places have completed the counting of the ballot papers casted and have posted outside the final result.”
Listing positive aspects of the voting, the group said an FRR with pictures was posted at all the polling places to help in the identification of voters, and that campaigning was ‘civilized,’ with special mention given to the chairman and commissioners of the NEC for the “proper preparation and management of the process.”
According to the group, there were sufficient electoral materials at polling stations; steps were taken to avoid cheating; NEC staffers and partisan observers were easily identifiable, professional and courteous.
The group noticed that voters came in “relative numbers,” with the rate of participation of the well sensitized electorate from the runoff reflecting the image of the political incidences between the two rounds. It said discrete but very effective law officers buffeted by private security contributed to secure the polling stations.
“We noticed that women have been very active in voting success at polling stations at the level of the electorate and the non-involvement of public authorities in the management of the process, although it is a predominant actor.”
At the end of the vote, the mission observed that a tally sheet of the vote was posted at all the polling places.
It, meanwhile, said there was strong participation of observers from Liberian civil society organizations, the African Union, ECOWAS, European Union, Carter Center, IFES, NDI, EISA, Mano River Union, Women Peace Network, Elections Coordination Committee, and the Women Situation Room Liberia.
IMACS PDGG observers said they, however, noticed the delay of voting materials and in the opening of some polling places.
Declaring that the runoff presidential election of December 26, 2017 “has met international standards and is considered credible, transparent and free,” the International Mission of African Civil Society for Peace, Democracy and Good Governance concluded with some recommendations, going forward, to the NEC, Supreme Court, political parties/candidates, voters, government, the international community, and international observer missions.
To the NEC, the observer mission group recommended that it: strengthens the capacity of polling station members for upcoming polls; works without delay in the centralization and aggregation of the statistical and qualitative data for the announcement of the results of the election within the legal deadline prescribed by law; stays the course in process management for a happy ending; always maintain neutrality and impartiality in the conduct of the process; takes all disposition to a consensus of all the stakeholders on the results of ballots boxes; and to take into account all the recommendations of all the international and national observer missions.
The group called on the High Court to work within the legal deadline for handling electoral disputes and proclaim within the deadlines set by law the final results of the runoff; to work without ceasing to the proclamation of the final results ‘to situate the Liberian people and the international community’; make every effort to avoid disturbances and other unfortunate events that could aggravate the harmful atmosphere of the country; search for consensus, “and the spirit of fairness must guide the wise people so that Liberia recovers with socio-political stability, guarantee of growth and economic development.”
Political parties are called on to accept the final election results from the NEC; to ‘absolutely avoid’ inciting people to uprisings and popular vindictiveness to claim attention; demonstrate intellectual maturity and accountability in the management of public affairs; propose new social dynamics by eradicating extreme poverty pockets, especially at the level of the young labor force, taking into account the elderly, empowering women through micro-credits for income-generating activities, social security, health mutual, etc…Develop a genuine policy for the promotion of employment; use legal means for claims (electoral disputes) and other disputes within the statutory deadline stipulated by the legal texts governing the ballot, and accept the verdict of the court or authorized body; and to inclusively continue to resolve and anticipate political problems within the IPCC (Inter Parties Consultative Committee).