Liberia: Voter Roll Cleanup A Necessity To Avoid Election Chaos

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MEMBERS OF THE FOUR COLLABORATING political parties, comprising the All Liberian Party (ALP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), Liberty Party (LP) and Unity Party (UP), on Wednesday expressed outraged by the decision of Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, to decline on hearing its Petition for a Writ of Mandamus intended to compel the National Elections Commission (NEC) to clean up the 2017 Voters’ Roll.

AT A NEWS CONFERENCE, the four parties, while acknowledging the discretion of justices in chambers to accept to hear a petition or to decline to hear it,  said they are also aware that in electoral maters, it is improbable to decline such a petition.

LIBERIA’S RUGGED HISTORY of election violence and chaotic aftermath is all the more reason that authorities, including the National Elections Commission and the three branches of government should work toward ensuring that all the bottlenecks and stumbling blocks are removed to ensure that elections are free, fair and transparent.

FOR YEARS, we have seen how disputed elections can lead to chaos.

THE NOVEMBER 1985 election was followed by an attempted coup led by Commanding General Thomas Quiwonkpa, one of the original seven members of the People’s Redemption Council which ended decades of Americo-Liberian rule and brought down the William R. Tolbert government on April 12, 1980.

IRONICALLY, Polling in the ’85 elections was marred by allegations of widespread fraud and rigging after official results showed that Doe won the presidential election with 50.9% of the vote, just enough to avoid a runoff. His National Democratic Party of Liberia won large majorities in both houses of the Legislature. At the time, many independent observers believed that the Liberian Action Party’s Jackson F. Doe, who officially finished second, was the actual winner. It was later revealed that Doe had the ballots counted in a secret location by his handpicked staff. The period after the elections saw increased human rights abuses, corruption and ethnic tensions, ultimately leading to the start of the first civil war and and Doe’s overthrow and murder in September 1990.

ON NOVEMBER 7, 2011, the Presidential elections runoff was thrown into deadly chaos after at least one person was shot dead during volatile scenes outside the headquarters of the then opposition CDC which had called for a boycott of the first round of voting.

THEN IN THE OPPOSITION, the CDC claimed that the election was fraudulently conducted and urged their supporters to boycott the second round.   They stated that the NEC had not investigated and concluded adjudication on all the complaints which they received in the first round – over 50 were filed, with 16 were still being investigated and 38 had been concluded.  The NEC said at the time, that it was constitutionally bound to follow the statutory election calendar.

AT THE TIME, supporters of the CDC candidate, Winston Tubman, clashed with police near his beachfront offices. Armed police responded with live rounds and teargas, killing at least one person. Both Tubman and his running mate, Weah, were trapped inside the building suffused with teargas for much of the day. “We are not only sad, we are very disappointed,” Weah said at the time. The then running mate to Tubman added. “We were holding a peaceful rally and live bullets were used. To see people being killed is shocking. We are here trapped and unarmed and they keep shooting teargas. This is wrong,” Mr. Weah said at the time.

IN THE 2014, Senatorial elections won by Mr. Weah, violent clashes between supporters of Mr. Weah and Sirleaf’s son, Robert occurred but did not result in any casualties.

AHEAD OF THE DECEMBER 8 elections, we are already beginning to see a lot of tension with multiple attacks on the likes of Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, Alexander Cummings and Rep. Yekeh Korlubah.

ALL THIS SUGGEST that the Supreme Court owes it to Liberia to give some ear to the complaints filed by the CPP.

IT ITS PETITION, the CPP prayed for the Issuance of a Writ of Mandamus on the NEC. “We did not ask the court, nor did we require Associate Justice Yuoh to undertake any exemplary display of courage in the exercise of the authority and functions of her office,” the CPP noted. 

HAVING FAILED IN ITS REPEATED attempts to get the NEC to clean up the Voters’ Roll of 2017, the CPP says it felt constrained to simply petition the court, through the Office of the Associate Justice, to compel the NEC to clean up the Voters’ Roll of 2017.

THE CPP AVERRED: “Strangely, this cleanup exercise which we were asking the Supreme Court to compel the NEC to undertake was (i) instructed by the Supreme Court of Liberia on which the Associate Justice was privileged to be seated, on December 7, 2017;  (ii) Recommended by an ECOWAS Technical Support Team deployed to provide “critical assessment of the register of voters”; and (iii) as recently as June 5, was directed by the Joint Resolution of the Legislature with a force of law.”

THE CPP SAYS IT FELT compelled to seek the intervention of the Supreme Court as a matter of legal recourse after it had exhausted every available opportunity to impress upon the NEC the critical and urgent need the electoral body has to undertake in the important duty of cleaning up the Voters’ Roll of 2017. “Simply put, the current Voters’ Roll, absent a cleanup, is defective and cannot form a basis for the conduct of credible Mid-Term Senatorial Elections and Referendum.”

IT IS IMPORTANT that all stakeholders in Liberia’s post-war democratic sojourn, join the call to ensure that the voter roll is cleaned up properly.

NO ONE WANTS to see Liberia plunged into another round of fighting and no one wants to witness another chaotic election aftermath.

THIS IS WHY those in power now must do all within their power to ensure a free, fair and transparent elections and ensure that Liberia continues its path toward successive democratic elections and transition.

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