Liberia: LEON Condemns Electoral Violence in Gbarpolu

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MONROVIA – The Liberia Elections Observation Network strongly condemns the electoral violence in Gbarpulo, which again has prevented elections from taking place in Nomodatanau, Kongba district. The fact that a female candidate was targeted makes this particularly concerning. On line attacks have also continued against Senator Karnaga Lawrence. Although tallying has been peaceful across most of the country there have been tensions and disagreements in Bomi, River Cess, Sinoe and Grand Kru.

Delayed election in Gbarpulo

LEON is deeply concerned that, the elections in four polling places in in Nomodatanau, Gbarpolu, Kongba district, did not take place again today. Mdm Botoe Kanneh,  one of the leading candidates in the delayed elections, is been intimated by the traditional country devils, and her supporters attacked.

LEON sees this as a violation of Liberia’s commitment to achieving parity in women’s representation[1]. LEON reminds the Liberian government of it is obligation to protect women candidates in order to promote equal participation of women.

The elections could not take place in the town of Nomodatanau on 8 December because the election materials were seized, reportedly by the town chief, and people were not allowed to vote. Since then, Botoe Kanneh was prevented from entering the village to campaign 13th December. She reported that she and her supporters were attacked on Monday 14th and her husband injured. Last night the ballot boxes were destroyed again and the NEC extracted their people. Security forces have surrounded the town and LEON observers were not allowed to enter to observe last night. 

LEON is also concerned why the town chief was not questioned over the 8 December seizure of materials and why security was not sent yesterday, which could have allowed the delayed election to proceed today.

There are many different stories circulating on social media aimed at discrediting Botoe Kanneh but also claims that LEON is also concerned that the Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, is trying to influence the Magistrate. As a result, Bopolu city is tense, with people demonstrating, claiming that CDC have bribed the NEC magistrate to change the Election results in their interest and that Nimba and Grand Gedeh delayed elections.

Voting got underway this morning in 3 polling places in Nimba and in Grand Gedeh, under the watchful eyes of LEON observers and party agents. Voting did not take place on 8 December in Tiapa Public School and Gbayee Public Schools, Upper Nimba, District 2, due to lack of polling staff in these remote areas. In Bargblor Public School, Grand Gedeh District 3, people were told not to vote on 8 December because the county name on the ballot box was incorrect. The NEC claims this was false information.

LEON observers have reported that all four polling places opened on time today and that everything is proceeding correctly. Party agents are present and queues are short.

Senatorial results and tally process

LEON has been observing the tallying of results in all magistrates offices around the country since the process started on 9 December. They have been reporting that the process is highly transparent in all centers with results forms being photocopied for all observers and party agents, and the computer screen projected on to the wall so that everyone could check the results being entered against their copies of the results. The projector was not working in River Cess on the first day. LEON observers rated the process as very good or good in all tally centers, often commended the magistrates for the transparency of the process.

There were problems in River Cess when party agents of Wellington Geevon Smith threatened that they would kill the Magistrate and burn the office if they detected any fraud. This type of threat is not conducive to smooth running of the process and should be condemned. Steve Tequah, an independent candidate has filed an official complaint asking for a recount of all 111 polling places in the county, claiming that many votes for him were wrongly declared invalid and that Geevon Smith’s supporters attacked his party agents at the tally center, not witnessed by LEON observers.

Grand Kru was also criticised for not being fully transparent with the Magistrate not considering party agent complaints against some results. The situation is tense since there are only 26 votes separating the top two candidates and  journalist has reported on social media that he was badly beaten at lunchtime today by supporters of one of the two.

There were s party complaints in both Lower and upper Nimba. In Sinoe CPP and Rainbow Alliance candidates are calling for reruns in three precincts where voting started late. Those precincts include: Settra Kru 39049 opened at12:15pm; Nana Kru 39034 opened at 3: 37pm; and Tuzon 39006 opened at 3:00 pm. In Bomi, CDC agents are unhappy with the conduct of the election in the county but not with the tally process.

LEON noted that there were a few ballots boxes quarantined in each tally center and all were dealt with well. However, there were a large number of discrepancies between the number of unused ballots and the number of ballots in the ballot box showing on the results sheets. In many tally centers these discrepancies were assumed to be mathematical errors and changed, despite there being no evidence for this. This shows a misunderstanding of the need for the reconciliation of ballots, in that discrepancies can indicate an underlying problem, Simply changing the discrepancy removes an important safeguard against fraud and sh9udl be stopped. 

LEON noted that invalid votes were around 6% for the Senatorial elections which is higher than in 2017.

LEON commends Rep. Thomas Fallah for conceding to Sen. Abe Darius Dillon, and to the President of the Republic in calling for people to peacefully accept the results. LEON is also encouraged, that, although there have been tensions where results are close, there have been no major outbreaks of violence over tallying and that Gbarpulo remains the only county with major issues.

LEON continues to observe tallying of the referendum results. 

About LEON

The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON), launched in May 2017 is a platform of four Liberian Civil Society Organizations: The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD) with the goal to meaningfully contribute to democratization processes in Liberia.

LEON receives funding from the Swedish Cooperation and Irish Aid and technical support from the Carter Center and would like to express its appreciation to these partners.

Methodology

LEON has been observing and monitoring the elections campaign around the country since July with one Long Term Observers (LTOs) stationed in each county. They have been reported on local issues, election preparations and observing the voter registration update and the campaign. LEON has a core team in Monrovia that liaise with the NEC and political stakeholders at national level and analyse the findings of the LTOs. They also have a team of social media monitors who check on negative information being posted about candidates.

LEON had 700 election day observers stationed in different polling precincts around the country that were randomly selected according to population distribution in remote as well as urban and rural areas. The observers reported on four different checklists at different times during the day. Reports come in real time through coded text messages directly to the LEON database.

LEON has issued reports on the voter registration update, two pre election reports, two social media monitoring reports and three election statements so far, based on observer findings. These are available through the LEON website.  

LEON will continue to observe voting and counting where it is being held and is continuing to  observing the referendum tally process around the country in order to ensure the utmost transparency. This is especially important since political party observers are largely absent.


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