LIBERIA: Upcoming By-Election Puts National Elections Commission’s Credibility on the Line

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IN THE DAYS LEADING to next week’s senatorial and legislative by-elections, the National Elections Commission, which by law is an autonomous agency responsible for supervising the national elections of Liberia, finds itself engulfed in an enormous controversy regarding the replacement of lost voter identification cards.

THE CONTROVERSY has led many Liberians to draw their own conclusions and insinuations regarding NEC’s ability to impartially conduct the elections.

TWO DEVELOPMENTS IN the past few weeks have raised eyebrows. The decision by NEC to postpone the elections from July 2, 2019 to July 8, 2019 and the recent decision by the government through the Ministry of Finance, promising to foot the bill of 5$ each for all missing and damaged voting cards.”

THE ELECTIONS Commission in a statement said recently that it encourages voters to turnout as there will be no further extension after June 27, 2019.

WHERE IT GETS TRICKY for us is what happens to many of those Liberians who were not in the country prior to the 2017 elections and therefore were not able to cast their votes in this voting circle?

NEC’S CHAIR Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah has been mute about numerous speculations regarding the fate of he and his commissioners, all of whom are due to end their tenure during the first quarter of 2020.

WITH THAT in mind, murmurs have been in the air for months that plans are afoot to compromise the elections in a bid to secure an ambassadorial position for the embattled chair and/or renewal of tenure of those currently serving as commissioners.

WHILE NO ONE knows what is going on at NEC, recent activities suggest that the body responsible for conducting and overseeing elections owes a responsibility to the people of Liberia to set the record straight.

LIBERIA HAS HAD a troubled history regarding elections. 

IN THE General elections of 1927, referred to as the Most Rigged Ever” and made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the most fraudulent election ever reported in history. Despite there being fewer than 15,000 registered voters, President Charles D.B. King of the ruling True Whig Party received around 243,000 votes, compared to 9,000 for Thomas J. Faulkner of the People’s Party.

THERE WERE ALSO issues with the 1985 presidential elections won by Samuel Kanyon Doe. 

LIBERIA HAS a rugged history of voters feeling disenfranchised. This is why NEC and Chairman Korkoya must ensure that it gets these elections right. 

THE CURRENT ruling party is a living testament. At the end of the 2005 presidential elections, then candidate George Manneh Weah, initially filed formal fraud charges, but subsequently dropped his allegations, citing the interests of peace.

SIX YEARS LATER,  after the 2011 run-off, at least one person was killed after shots were reportedly fired during a protest by the CDC, then an opposition party.

SIX YEARS LATER, in 2017, the elections aftermath was engulfed in a drawn-out legal battle over the results with members of the opposition claiming fraud.

WE HOPE that this time around, NEC will ensure that the process is free, fair and transparent to avoid a repeat of Liberia’s recent history. 

THE ELECTIONS COMMISSION must thoroughly and transparently explain the recent process regarding lost voter cards to ensure that nothing sinister took place that could cause problems in the aftermath of these elections. 

LIBERIA’S POST-WAR peace  must be maintained and NEC has a responsibility to ensure that with a free, fair and transparent process as the rest of the world watch the unfolding developments in Liberia’s bourgeoning democracy.

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