MONROIVA — European Union (EU) Chief Observer, Andreas Schieder, who has been in Liberia since the end of August, stated that as EU observers, they take Liberia’s electoral process very seriously. Speaking with local journalists at the University of Liberia (UL) polling site, Mr. Schieder, accompanied by his Deputy Chief Observer Jarek Domanski and two other observers, mentioned that there are 100 EU Observers deployed throughout the country, with 20 teams of observers working alongside the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS.
“We have our observers in 14 counties, and we have seen 38 polling stations where we have at least two observers at each. We observed the opening in 38 cases and witnessed a regular electoral process so far, with minor delays in some places while most are on schedule. We have also noted a high level of participation in areas where we are deployed. Generally, we can say that things are working well so far,” he said.
Mr. Schieder, visiting Liberia for the second time, mentioned that he understands the political and economic situations, the legal background, the rules for the elections, the situation regarding election financing, and how candidates are running their campaigns. They are also collecting their own information to present a press statement next Tuesday regarding their findings on the elections.
Regarding recent electoral violence in the country and whether he had witnessed similar violence in other countries where he served as an observer, he stated that they are closely monitoring Liberia and have received reports of loss of life and injuries. They have spoken with the police, who are still investigating, so it is too early to make a complete judgment, but he expressed regret for the loss of life.
“I have been in several places in Africa as an observer, like Zimbabwe, which had a long list of problems. However, it would be unfair to compare situations, as each case is different. Liberia’s democratic background is longstanding, and Liberia has many strong women, including the first female president in Africa. On the other hand, Liberia had a terrible civil war and war crime issues, from which Liberians are still suffering. So, we cannot compare Liberia with other countries; let’s treat each case individually,” he said.
He further stated that since their arrival a month and a half ago, they have been gathering information by following political rallies and media reports. They have been keeping their eyes and ears on all the counties to ensure everything is monitored. They will also be present for the vote counting at a station because they cannot be everywhere at the same time.
Regarding the issue of Liberians depending on foreign observers for free and fair elections, he emphasized that they are only observers and not organizers. “The Liberian democracy is very important to us, but we leave the organization of the process in the hands of Liberian authorities because we are only observers. However, you can be assured that our report will be very detailed, and we will provide a list of recommendations based on our findings afterward,” he said.
At the UL campus, there was a large turnout of voters at polling centers such as G.W. Gibson School, St. Simon Baptist School, and a polling site located behind Renault Garage. Voter Alfreda N. Paul and many others were sitting under the blistering sun at one of the UL electoral polling sites. When asked if she was uncomfortable under the hot sun, she said she was sitting there to exercise her constitutional right to vote.
“I feel good sitting under the hot sun. Even if it were to rain, I would still be here to vote because it is my constitutional right. However, I observe that no regulations have been put in place for people with children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the disabled. These individuals can’t withstand the hot sun like able-bodied men and women. Therefore, NEC should implement regulations so that these people can vote first and then return home,” she said.
Jones K. Sumu, another voter, expressed that he was not feeling bad sitting under the sun because it’s a day provided by God. “I am so happy to participate in this voting process today, as I will be pledging my sovereignty to the state. This is a normal process that we have to go through every six years, so whether it’s rain or shine, I will vote. I just want to encourage our fellow citizens not to engage in violence but to have a smooth process, and whatever the result, let us accept it. Violence is not good, but elections can be tense, so we should anticipate some tension. At least, we are happy that the entire country is not in disarray due to the violence that occurred in some parts of the country,” he said.