Voters subdued by fatigue and torrential downpour trickle slowly at various polling centers Monday, July 29, and cast their ballots in the long-awaited Montserrado County Senatorial and Representative By-elections.
The polls had been postponed twice by the National Elections Commission or NEC for delays in arrival of voting materials and budgetary support. Up to polling day Monday, the NEC had officially received US$1.5 million of the 2.5M budgeted for the two by-elections in Montserrado.The polls were generally peaceful except reports of some skirmishes in District#15, on Bushrod Island.
Voters could not get to polling places during early hours due to the heavy downpour but by the noon, Liberians showed up and cast their ballots for candidates of their choice, respectively.
A total of seven candidates vied for the Montserrado senatorial seat but the race is between Abraham Darious Dillon of the Liberty Party, representing the collaborating opposition parties and Paulita Wie of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change, while in District#15, Coalition’s candidate Abu Kamara and Tali Urey of the opposition All Liberia Party (ALP) are in a two-horse race.
A new procedure announced by the Chairman of the National Elections Commission Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya that would have been voters’ roll call prior to the poll and party’s observers allowed to verify was not followed, as names were not called aloud, and party’s observers were not permitted to come close to the Voters’ Identification Officer.
Polling officials provide no public explanations for the abrupt change when questioned; many of them referred reporters to the NEC, disclosing that they acted upon mandate from the electoral house.
Up to press time, there was no major complaint from candidates and observers, but some voters claim poll workers prevented them from carrying smart phones into the polling box while marking their ballots.
Officers of the Liberia National Police deployed at polling places across the county, providing security and observing the processing, including both local and international observers. The NEC has said it will announce the poll results this week as preliminary (exit polls) put the collaborating parties candidate Darius Dillion ahead.
According to Chairman Korkoya, the Commission recruited over 10,000 temporary staff, for 488 precincts and over 1,000 polling stations across Montserrado.
The by-elections are as the result of the death of Senator Geraldine Doe Sherif following a protracted battle with womb cancer and the tragic death of District #15 Representative Adolph Lawrence in a car crash early this year. By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne