Monrovia — The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) in collaboration with the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission in Liberia, the Peace Building Office (PBO), and supported by the National Election Response Group (NERG), successfully managed the Election Situation Room (ESR) during the Presidential Run-off Elections held from November 13 to 15, 2023, at the Bella Casa Hotel in Monrovia.
The ESR, a critical component of the WANEP Electoral Violence Monitoring, Analysis, and Mitigation (E-MAM) project, played a pivotal role in observing and responding to potential threats to the peaceful conduct of the election. The preliminary declaration released today summarizes key aspects of the electoral process, challenges faced, and recommendations for future elections.
The presidential run-off election, with a total of 2,471,617 registered voters, was a crucial step in maintaining Liberia’s democracy after the civil war that ended two decades ago. Incumbent President George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) faced former Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party (UP). The political landscape remained tense with 23 incidents of violence and political tension recorded in various counties.
Election Situation Room (ESR):
The ESR comprised four operational sections: the Data Gathering Room, Analysis Room, Decision Room, and Communication Room. A team of 45 Liberians, including youth, experts, and eminent persons, worked alongside resource persons from West African countries. Additionally, 133 local observers, including 20 Long Term Conflict Monitors, were strategically deployed across high-risk areas.
Opening of Polling Stations:
On November 14, 2023, the ESR reported that the general mood at polling stations was peaceful, with only isolated incidents. Observers acknowledged improvements in addressing issues that caused delays in the previous election. However, some delays were reported due to the absence of ballot papers and late arrival of NEC polling staff.
Closing and Counting of Votes:
The ESR observers reported that the majority of polling centers closed on time, and the voting process proceeded smoothly. Delays were attributed to heavy rainfall in some areas. Notably, 96.69% of observers reported that decisions regarding ballot validation or cancellation were made in consultation with all actors present.
Actions by Eminent Persons in the Decision Room:
The ESR played a crucial role in using backdoor channels to discourage violence and maintain peace. International observer missions, including ECOWAS, were briefed on the election dynamics. The Decision Room worked to update key state institutions with actionable recommendations.
The ESR identified several lessons, including the need for deeper consultations between political parties and the NEC, timely communication by the NEC, and the avoidance of deploying sensitive materials without security escorts. Strengthening collaboration between civil society organizations (CSOs) and the NEC was also highlighted.
Challenges included limited civic education, communication gaps in communities, delays in delivering electoral materials, and delayed resolution of election-related complaints.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
The WANEP commended Liberians, the NEC, political parties, security forces, and civil society for contributing to the generally peaceful electoral process. The organization thanked domestic and international observers and partners for their support.
Key recommendations include urging political parties to respect the electoral process, ensuring timely deployment of materials by the NEC, and maintaining professionalism and sensitivity in releasing results. Political parties were encouraged to focus on issues rather than personalities, and stakeholders were urged to seek redress through established legal channels for grievances.
WANEP pledged to issue a more detailed report and engage with stakeholders to implement the recommendations. In the meantime, stakeholders are urged to adhere to laid-down procedures and maintain peace as official results are awaited.
For further information, the full report from WANEP on the 2023 Presidential Run-off Elections will be made available after further engagement with stakeholders.