Monrovia – The Carter Center (CC) has warned political parties to refrain from releasing parallel results prior to the publication of provisional results by the National Election Commission (NEC).
Report by Bettie K. Johnson Mbayo, [email protected]
The statement of the Center followed a pre-election statement summarizing key findings from the campaign period and pre-electoral environment in the lead-up to Liberia’s presidential and legislative elections on Oct. 10.
The CC also called on both political parties and the NEC to be clear in informing voters that only results reviewed and released by the NEC are official.
“While stakeholders have the right to gather and disseminate information regarding the process of the election — including results collected from polling stations — any results released by a political party before the official results are finalized have the potential to increase confusion and misunderstanding and could unnecessarily cast doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome.”
The CC said “It is likely that discrepancies will arise because of differences in the speed and location of unreported results, the additional checks the magistrates will be conducting during the NEC’s official results tabulation process at the county level, and the different methods for gathering the information.”
The statement said refraining from releasing early and unofficial results will help limit confusion among the electorate and avoid inflaming tensions.
It can be recalled the standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC George Weah’s says that it would go ahead to announce its own results from all polling centers across the country at the close of the polls.
Coalition Chairman Nathaniel McGill also confirmed that that they will not wait for the National Elections Commission to announce official results of the polls, instead, the Coalition will create a war room at its national headquarters in Monrovia, where its poll workers around the country will send results via modern technology from polling centers for subsequent posting to various media outlets.
McGill explains that the rationale behind pronouncing results ahead of NEC is to deny anyone that may have any intention of cheating the CDC. However, he clarifies that the National Elections Commission will officially declare winner of the election, but the CDC will not only look to the commission.
He says the Coalition’s results would be certified by observers, NEC workers and other poll watchers. Chairman McGill discloses that already, the CDC is training over 20,000 poll workers, who will be deployed throughout the country equipped and well financed with the sole obligation of forwarding results on an hourly basis to national headquarters in Monrovia.
The statement by Carter Center is the latest in a series, a comprehensive long-term international election observation mission in Liberia.
The current phase of the center includes six long-term observers who have been deployed across the country since August, and a core team of electoral experts in Monrovia.
In the coming week, they will be joined by about 30 short-term observers who will help observe the voting, counting, and tabulation processes.
The Carter Center delegation will be led by H. E., former President of the Central African Republic; Jason Carter, chairman of the Carter Center Board of Trustees; and Jordan Ryan, Vice President of the Carter Center’s peace programs.
The Center offers several recommendations on steps to increase public confidence in the election and flags a few issues that could prove problematic, including several that could be addressed prior to Election Day.
The CC recommended that the NEC should consider using all media and telecommunication options to communicate the availability of the SMS voter list verification tool to voters, which would contribute to the public’s confidence in the quality of the list and help familiarize voters with the location of their polling places.
To further its commitment to transparency, the NEC should publicly post the lists of people selected as polling station staff so that the names may be scrutinized by the community.
The NEC should continue its efforts to explain the tabulation process and the provisions for ensuring adequate access for party agents and observers, and any other safeguards it is implementing. Further, a clear outline of the planned timetable for releasing results would help prepare political parties and the general public for the days following Election Day.
“The Police and political parties should continue the commendable cooperation they have shown to date; all parties and candidates should reiterate their commitment to a peaceful process and respect one another’s right to campaign.”
The CC statement further that candidates should exercise caution in their rhetoric and remind their supporters that no matter their ethnic group or heritage, they and their opponents are all Liberians.
”In order to assure voters that they can cast their ballots free from intimidation and that the secrecy of the vote is fully protected, all parties should refrain from gathering voter identification numbers in the time before Election Day.”
In addition, the political parties and the NEC should assure voters that it is not possible to determine how a voter cast his or her ballot based on an identification number, and that persons who have collected voter identification numbers will not be able to determine how a voter cast their ballot.
The CC recommended that political parties with concerns about the misuse of state resources should document possible violations and file formal complaints with the relevant authorities.