MONROVIA – Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah, the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) has sharply responded to allegations that the Commission is planning to rig the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.
By Gerald C. Koinyeneh – [email protected]
Madam Lansanah, addressing the NEC’s weekly press briefing on Tuesday said the NEC is committed to conducting free, fair and transparent elections as it has done in the past, and will in no way betray the trust of the Liberian people and the international community.
She cautioned political parties participating in the elections to desist from making false accusations against the NEC.
“We are not cheaters. If you claim that the Commission will cheat and you are participating in the process, tomorrow, if you win, will you be telling the Liberian people that the Commission cheated for you to win? Let us Please guide our utterances,” she said.
She continued: “The same organization that will confer legitimacy on you is the same organization you are denigrating and bringing to public disrepute – that we are cheaters here. We don’t cheat anybody. What is in the ballot box is what we process and what we announce.”
In the buildup to Liberia’s crucial general elections, supporters of the Unity Party have hinted at the possibility of election rigging by the government, while simultaneously threatening unconventional reactions if such allegations prove true.
Senator Johnson, a former warlord and staunch ally of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the opposition Unity Party, raised eyebrows last week when warned that any attempt to cheat in the upcoming elections, the “people’s power” would be exercised like the Arab Spring, which was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s.
Addressing a campaign rally, former vice president Joseph Boakai, standard bearer of the Unity Party warned that it would be “the end of Liberia” if the ruling CDC rigged the October 10 elections.
In the video, Ambassador Boakai stated, “That’s why you have to protect it [the votes]. If they think they’ll steal this election, we will not allow it because if you do it, that is the end of this country.”
However, Amos Tweh, UP secretary-general, who attended the NEC press conference, said Amb. Boakai was misconstrued. He said the UP has faith in the NEC, but will speak when there is any inconsistency to ensure their votes are protected.
He expressed concern that the number of eligible voters in Grand Bassa, Margibi and Montserrado Counties increased after the verification exercise where the NEC removed the ineligible voters including underaged voters from the voter list. With the deduplication exercise, Tweh said the number of voters should have decreased or remained the same, and not increased.
Madam Browne, responding to him, assured that the NEC would review his complaint and respond in due time. Also responding to Tweh’s concern over the delay in publication of the final registration roll (FRR), the NEC chairperson said her staff are working assiduously to print out the final FRR.
She revealed that printing of the FRR began ten days ago, and is progressing well. “NEC staff are working day and night to ensure that materials are deployed in time for the October 10th Elections, especially given the challenges with delivery of those materials to some parts of the country,” she said.
She noted that to make the process more transparent, as has been done in the past, the FRR is being printed to be pasted at the 2080 precincts across the country prior to Election Day.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, the NEC reiterates that the FRR for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections will be made available to all political parties, Independent Candidates and other stakeholders upon completion of the ongoing process to secure the data,” she said.
‘All is on course’
With the arrival of the ballot papers, Madam Lansanah said all is on course for the smooth conduct of the elections.
She revealed that the ballot papers arrived in the country on Monday, 25 September 2023 from the Republic of Ghana via the Roberts International Airport in the following categories quantities; 3,320,500 presidential ballot papers, 3,402,122 senatorial ballots and 3,403,208 representative ballot papers.
She said the ballots are currently in secured storage under state securities, adding that deployment of ballot papers and other sensitive and non-sensitive election materials to the 19 magisterial offices in the 15 counties for onward distribution to the 2,080 voting precincts nationwide will commence in the next few days.
She further announced that assorted election materials including ballot boxes, precinct kits, tactile ballot guides, indelible ink, and assorted stationery procured internationally have arrived in the country. Packaging of materials for the 5,890 polling places began about two weeks ago and is ongoing. Distribution of these materials to the various county warehouses will commence in the next few days, she said.
She noted that in addition to the ongoing procurement process for land transport vehicles, the NEC has put in a procurement process for additional transportation means to convey electoral material throughout the country.
Recruitment and Training of Electoral Staff
Speaking further, she said consistent with commitment to ensuring the participation of all eligible voters, the Commission, in collaboration with partners, has drawn up appropriate strategies to provide civic and voter education for the 2023 general elections.
Accordingly, with the assistance of the UNDP Liberia Electoral Support Project, she noted the NEC established 81 civic and voter education cells across the 73 electoral districts of Liberia that are currently engaged in outreach activities in various communities including door-to-door and face-to-face campaigns at the grassroots level throughout the country.