Peaceful and Calm But Liberia’s 2017 General Elections Is Far From Perfect

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‘Peaceful and Calm’ are among the common words used to describe the October 10th general elections in Liberia which was generally considered satisfactory but there would be a lot more talking points out of Liberia’s historic elections.

International electoral stakeholders and observer groups have communicated their preliminary observations with regards to the conduct of the October 10th elections in Liberia. This post is a summary of their observations and the issues with Liberia’s 2017 elections.

Poll Workers Incompetent – ECOWAS Observer Mission

Former Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama who led the ECOWAS observer mission noted that the election faced the challenge of incompetent staffing, attributing many of the issues identified by their observers to the quality of staffing.

Many of the polling workers at the stations were unable to identify the name of voters on the roster. There were many reports and several complaints from voters all across the country over the absence of their names from the voters’ roster.

Other issues identified include late arrival of polling materials in remote areas of the country.

Mahama said the late training of presiding and electoral officers was to blame and praised the National Elections Commission (NEC) for leading a fair process. He urged the NEC to learn from its mistakes.

Voter Management Chaotic – Carter Center

The Carter Center mission observed that lack of information and proper instructions on the voting process created confusion among voters. The mission noted that this lead to various reports of long queues, noting that it took some people the whole day to cast their vote, especially in the large precincts.

The center considers the elections largely transparent and commended the enthusiasm of the Liberian voters and it called on the NEC to make information more readily available to the people.

“Transparency is crucial in an election, and the Center urges the NEC to continue its efforts to ensure that the tabulation process is transparent at all levels and that the public is provided the information it needs to fully understand the process,” the statement read. 

Transfer of Materials Not Secure – National Democratic Institute (NDI)

NDI observed that the election was conducted in an orderly manner, and ahhered to standard procedures. The observer mission led by U.S Senator Gary Peters of Michigan expressed reservations about the transfer of voting materials and observed that the process fell short of the established standards and unsecure.

“The transfer of materials from voting precincts to Magistrate Offices was not done according to procedures or in a secure manner in some locations. In some places, materials were taken and stored at Magistrate Office warehouses overnight, and then intake processes were begun at the tallying centers at Magistrate Offices on the morning of October. In other cases, materials were transferred to the Magistrate Offices in the morning. The chain of custody for material between voting precincts and Magistrate Offices was often not monitored by observers and party agents.”

The NDI delegation called on the NEC to release verified provisional results in real-time to boost citizens’ confidence in final results.

National Identification System must be fixed – African Union (AU)

The African Union noted its satisfaction with the conduct of the elections although the group pointed out that there were technical challenges with the pre-election and Election Day processes.

The AU observed that there were issues surrounding voter identification and offered recommendations to the Liberian government.

“In the wake of the national identification, the government should adopt and legislate a national identification system.” Erastus Mwencha, head of the AU observer mission, said.

Trust the European Union (EU) to urge caution

The European commission in a brief statement called for caution on the parts of candidates and parties as the tallying of results continue. It urged them to resort to “existing legal mechanisms in case of any electoral grievances.” The commission called on the NEC to ensure the process is transparent.

It generally appraised the conduct of the elections to have been satisfactory and praised the Liberian people for demonstrating strong commitment to the democratic process.

Too Many ‘Men’ Involved – Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA)

The EISA team probably has the most important observation. According to the group it has observed that the majority of NEC personnel during the process were males. Besides this they offered praise to the NEC for properly handling unused ballot.

“Whilst noting the concerns raised by stakeholders regarding the numbers of excess ballot printed by the NEC, the EISA EOM observed that on Election Day there were appropriate procedures for reconciliation to account for the handling and safe storage of the unused ballots in the post-election period.”

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