1. Welcome to this press conference and update on the presidential runoff elections.
2. I want to highlight and respond to arising issues including:
a. Complaints and appeals process;
b. Status update;
c. Claims being made by political parties.
Complaints and appeals process
1. On the request of the Liberty Party, the Supreme Court has issued a Writ of Prohibition ordering the National Elections Commission to stop preparations for the organisation of the 7 November 2017 runoff election until the complaint and petition of this political party is concluded. The National Elections Commission, in line with this order, will follow the court’s instructions. This means all activities in preparation for the presidential runoff election are suspended and will not be resumed until the court orders otherwise.
2. The loss of today due to the Order already means the 7 November 2017 date that was set for the runoff presidential elections does not look possible to meet.
3. Prior to the Supreme Court Stay Order election preparations were on track. Ballot papers arrived as scheduled on 28 September 2017. Packing has been on-going and ballot papers and other sensitive material were being prepared and despatched to centres across the country.
4. Parts of the shipments of material had already arrived in Maryland, Grand Kru, River Gee and Grand Gedeh at the time of the Order. Today shipments were scheduled for the remaining material to Maryland and River Gee as well as Upper and Lower Nimba, Margibi and Upper and Lower Bong. These are suspended, and in some cases, they were recalled back to the warehouses as they were en route. Tomorrow deliveries were scheduled for Bomi, Grand Bassa, Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe as well as parts of Montserrado. These are suspended.
5. Training of National Elections Commission staff is suspended. Magistrate and Election Supervisor training was completed before the Stay Order was issued. Training that was scheduled to commence today for presiding officers has been suspended in line with the Order. Presiding Officers from across the country had arrived at training centres at the time of the Order. Training for the polling staff scheduled for the 3 and 4 November 2017 is suspended. The training of all staff was supposed to be completed on 5 November 2017 to allow staff members to reach their polling places.
6. The National Elections Commission has requested its partners carrying out civic and voter education to suspend activities.
Claims being made by political parties
7. There are a number of claims regarding the integrity of the 10 October 2017 elections being made by political parties. It is essential these claims be submitted in the form of complaints and evidence produced in support. The legal framework clearly outlines a legal process for complaints and the National Elections Commission follows this framework. And there is a right of appeal to the Supreme Court.
8. The Commission appeals to all political parties to use the appropriate channels to air grievances and complaints. The National Elections Commission recognises their right to freedom of speech, but announcing unsupported claims in the media risks inflaming the situation and dividing people.
9. On one point raised in a joint statement this weekend from the three political parties the National Elections Commission reassures all stakeholders the President of Liberia has met the magistrates on the request of the National Elections Commission on 17 September 2017. As head of state the president has supported the National Elections Commission strongly in its mandate to hold free and fair elections. The Government as well as other branches of the state are a stakeholder and the National Elections Commission has a duty to engage all stakeholders in its work.
10. At no point has the National Elections Commission’s independence been questioned by the president. The meeting was simply to highlight the importance of these elections to the citizens of Liberia. And to encourage the magistrates to do a professional job and be independent. The National Elections Commission is independent and will fiercely defend that independence at all times.
11. The National Elections Commission wants to stress that these elections were free, fair and credible. It stands by the election results published.
12. All of the international and national election observers have concluded that so far the election process has been well conducted, transparent and credible. None of them have identified any fraud in the election process. There were some lapses in places, but in nowhere did this impact on the results of the elections.
13. The claim that ballot papers were found dumped in Grand Gedeh County has been investigated and we have the material that was allegedly discovered for inspection. These are not ballot papers at all but parts of the ‘know your candidate’ civic education that was distributed by the National Elections Commission. There is no way at all anybody can vote with these since they do not have the security feature and are different sizes to ballot papers.
14. At every stage of the elections the process is transparent and open to scrutiny. The steps the National Elections Commission takes are fully in line with international best practice.
15. The National Elections Commission calls on all political parties to be responsible in the claims they are making.
16. More updates will be issued throughout the next days. And the National Elections Commission awaits legal clarity on its preparations.
Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya