Liberia’s Runoff Elections: Voters Apathy, Allegations of Cheating Overshadow Voting
Monrovia – Many predicted that December 26, 2017 was not a suitable date for election, and that incidents leading to the day would have impacted the voting process.
The frenzy of Christmas coupled with concerns about cleaning up the final registration roll (FRR) casted doubts over the turnout of voters in Liberia’s crucial 2017 Presidential runoff elections after more than a month of impasse.
While the aftermath of the Christmas festivity appear to have influenced voters’ turn out, many claimed that the trucking of voters during the October 10 vote was also responsible for the low turned out on December 26.
“I am here and feeling disappointed I cannot vote because I cannot afford the money to go.”
“The man who carried me say he’s not carrying us back (to vote),” said 21-year-old Janet Kollie, who could not commute to Nimba County where she voted during the first round.
At some polling places, there were no queues at all and the process appeared to be a walk-in-process.
There was also less difficulty in finding names on the voters roll although there were few incidents were voters did not find their names.
Sam Johnny, who voted at the Kendeja Public School precinct, described the process as “very smooth” as compared to the October 10 election.
Added James Kollie, another voter: “On October 10 by this time, the line was long and we were confused. We didn’t even know where to vote, but this time around, we’re happy with the way things are.”
In Paynesville City, Montserrado County several voting precincts also saw low turnouts as several queues had few voters.
“I am not worried that most people will not take part in the runoff because at the end of the day, one person will just have to be victorious; no matter how polling centers are empty or packed with voters,” said Charlesetta Saykey Weah, a resident of District 5.
Meanwhile, the National Democratic Institute, an international observatory body monitoring the election across the country, said there were never “serious incident” that may be consider a threat to the peaceful conclusion of the election.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, at the head of the NDI observers’ delegation admitted that people were a “bit apprehensive about the turnout” but said it was significantly a successful process.
“We can say on the average that it cannot be less than 55 percent – it might be between 55 and 60 (percent) and I cannot say it will go lower than that,” he said at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Monrovia during a quick press conference after polling closed on Tuesday.
“We think that the figures may be higher than that because the numbers of places we visited… the turnout is not as bad as people insinuated.”
He admitted that the Christmas festivity also impacted the turnout as compared to the first round of voting when voters’ “enthusiasm was high.”
“The management of the people was not too good (during the first round), so many people spent so much to locate where to vote, but this time around we must commend the NEC, they trained the people, they organized the procedures with the help of the technical staff from ECOWAS, so the voting is smooth, ” he said.
“On the overall, we believe that the elections will be successful and Liberia and indeed Africa will be proud that this country is consolidating democracy.”
Before Mr. Jonathan began heaping praises at the NEC for the conduct of election, there were increasing allegations of cheating making rounds on social media earlier on Tuesday.
But NEC said the election process and voting had been “smooth and there are marked improvements on the 10 October 2017”, adding that the systems it put in place are working.
The Commission, in a statement released late Tuesday after polling closed, mentioned that there were “very small number of Polling places” in Lofa and Monstserrado Counties that opened after 08:00 all polling places opened at 08:00 hours.
“Where there has been any delay in opening of polling places the National Elections Commission has instructed staff to account for the delay by closing polling later,” the statement, signed by NEC chairman Jerome Korkoya said.
NEC also admitted to “extremely small number of incidents that occurred and have been “dealt with on the spot immediately following the reporting of the incident.”
In one incident, a poll worker was arrested after she was accused of giving two pre-marked ballot papers to a voter at the Rev. Mother Sarah School System, a voting precinct on Duport Road Zubah Town, Paynesville.
The suspect, identified as Cynthia Ballah, was accused of giving the two ballot papers to a voter to put in the ballot box, said Henry Flomo, NEC communication officer told FrontPage Africa.
Ballah is being detained at the police station while the investigation is ongoing.
In another incident, misunderstanding sparking out of the use of ballot papers, after UP poll watchers claimed to have sought inquiry about the amount of ballots that had been used.
“I think this is just horrible, we came to just see what was happening because Unity Party pool watchers have called us to register that gang of CDCians have jumped on them. I think it was just about making inquiry,” said Robert Kpadeh, official spokesman of Unity Party campaign team.
Despite the skirmishes, the NEC said counting of the ballot papers has commenced nationwide, under the full view of political party agents and international and national election observers.
It said also disclosed that the tallying of results would commence on Wednesday, as provisional results will be release as they arrive, cautioning that only results released by the National Elections Commission should be reported as official ones.