Liberia: Cummings Cites ‘Possible Cheating and Rigging’ of Elections; Raises Alarm Over 2nd Postponement of By-elections
Monrovia – The Political Leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Mr. Alexander Cummings, has expressed concern over, and described as unacceptable, the second postponement of the by-elections for Montserrado County. Mr. Cummings fears that the delay exposes the by-elections to manipulation and creates further risks for the by-elections to be rigged by the ruling party.
“This is a clever ploy by the ruling party to avoid imminent defeat on the eve of irreversible opposition victory and it is sad that the National Elections Commissions (NEC) has allowed itself to be used in these games by a dying ruling party,” Cummings said Thursday, July 4, following announcement from the NEC that it was again postponing the by-elections.
Mr. Cummings, an opposition politician said it is clear that the motive behind this incessant pattern of delay is to buy time for the ruling party to finalize its game-plan of “cheating and rigging the by-elections.”
He cautioned that if the motive behind the delay is left unchecked and not averted, it could pose a threat to future elections in 2020 and 2023 and could hijack the sovereign will of the Liberian people to freely elect a leader of their choice.
“CDC’s only interest and hope in these elections is to cheat; and where there is no hope of winning elections, as in the current situation, they are bent on stalling and stonewalling the process,” Cummings said.
The ANC’s assertion is further evidenced by reports indicating that droves of partisans of the ruling party are being trucked to Monrovia from other counties to obtain replacement of lost voter’s registration cards. Even the NEC itself has described the increase in the number of applicants for replacement of lost voters’ card as “unprecedented” for any by-elections. Figures provided by the NEC, at a recent meeting with political parties, suggest that the number of applicants have increased by more than 800 percent from around 200 in any by-election to over 1,600.
In a related development, Mr. Cummings has warned that any attempt to hold the by-elections beyond July 8, 2019 would be in violation of the 30-day requirement provided by Chapter 5 Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution of 1986. He observed that this latest “state-orchestrated postponement” further pushes the by-elections beyond the constitutionally allowable timeframe, thereby depriving the people of Montserrado County of a constitutionally-guaranteed representation.
The ANC Political Leader observed that the vacancy, which gives rise to the senatorial by-election as a result of the death of Geraldine Doe-Sherriff, was created around February 10, 2019. The Liberian Senate only notified the National Elections Commission on April 8, 2019, in violation of the 30-day window provided by the Constitution. From that point, the National Elections Commission had only up to July 8, 2019 to hold senatorial by-elections. Postponing the elections beyond July 8 clearly violates the constitution, and renders any by-election, thereafter, “illegitimate.”
Similarly, a vacancy was created in the House of Representative around March 25, 2019 as a result of the death of Hon. Adolph Lawrence. Again, ANC maintained that the House of Representatives did not notify the National Elections Commission until April 29, 2019. “In the face of all these violations, the government delayed funding to the NEC, and the procurement of electoral materials by the NEC was undertaken in ways and manner designed to cause further delay.”
The NEC cited delay of funding and arrival of election materials as reasons for the postponement.
“These are their creations to avoid defeat, and thwart opposition takeover of the legislature,” Cummings said.
Mr. Cummings said that the factors, cited for the postponements of the elections, were known or should have been known in advance by the government and the NEC, and were not beyond their control; noting that the latest postponement further creates doubt that the by-elections will be conducted fairly, transparently and credibly.
He has, therefore, called on the NEC to hold the elections on July 8, 2019, in accordance with the Constitution. He also calls for the publication of the entire voter’s roll and pre-ballot paper at every polling center, something which has not been done up to now. Meanwhile, Mr. Cummings has urged the NEC to respect the ruling of the Liberia Supreme Court in the case, Liberty Party v. National Elections Commission, and ensure that anyone whose name is not on the voter’s roll should not be allowed to vote.